Ten-player Wales sealed second in Group A and a place in the last 16 of Euro 2020, despite a 1-0 loss to a changed Italy in Rome.
Ethan Ampadu’s red card in the 55th minute had raised fears that Switzerland – who beat Turkey 3-1 – could achieve the goal difference they needed to send Wales into the uncertainty of ‘a third qualifying place.
But Rob Page’s side have battled in the heat of the Italian capital to stage a knockout clash with Group B finalists in Amsterdam at 5 p.m. next Saturday.
Matteo Pessina had given Italy a deserved lead (39) and Federico Bernardeschi hit the woodwork with a free kick just after half-time as Roberto Mancini’s side showed their strength in depth, although Gareth Bale should have claimed a famous draw for his team when he wasted a volley later.
Welsh fans are hoping their captain – who missed a penalty in their last game – will be more precise next weekend, while Italy – now undefeated in 30 games – eagerly awaits to face the finalists from Group C at Wembley later today.
Italy: Donnarumma (6), Toloi (6), Bonucci (6), Bastoni (7), Emerson (6), Pessina (8), Jorginho (7), Verratti (8), Chiesa (7), Belotti (6), Bernardeschi (8).
Submarines used: Acerbi (6), Raspadori (6), Cristante (6), Castrovilli (N / A), Sirigu (N / A)
Wales: Ward (8), Ampadu (4), Rodon (8), Gunter (7), C. Roberts (6), Allen (7), Morrell (6), N. Williams (6), Bale (6), Ramsey (6), Jacques (6).
Submarines used: Moore (7), Wilson (6), Brooks (N / A), Davies (N / A), Levitt (N / A)
Man of the match: Marco Verratti (Italy)
How Wales were keen to reserve their place for the last 16 …
Italy had made eight substitutions for the game but looked clean from the first whistle, with testing crosses sent in by Alessandro Bastoni and Pessina before Emerson shot Danny Ward from the edge of the box , and Pessina deflected an effort into the goalkeeper’s throat a few minutes later.
Neco Williams, Ampadu and Joe Allen combined on the left as Wales looked to come to life and, after Andrea Belotti dragged a shot past the far post at the other end, the visitors scored their first effort in the 27 minutes, headed by Chris Gunter. by cutting the side net from a corner.
- Italy made eight changes with only goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leonardo Bonucci and Jorginho keeping their places.
- Wales made three changes with Ben Davies, Chris Mepham and Kieffer Moore making way for Chris Gunter, Ethan Ampadu and Neco Williams.
Italy remained the most threatening team, however, with Federico Chiesa scoring a shot through the goal and, after a tame Joe Rodon header on target from a free kick, Italy managed on their own.
Marco Verratti had started pulling the strings for the Azzurri and, after he was fouled by Allen on the sidelines on the right, his cut free kick was thrown into the far corner by Pessina .
Italy nearly doubled their lead before the break, with Verratti and Pessina looking to combine again, although the midfielder was unable to make a clear connection this time around.
Wales will have seen at half-time that Switzerland were leading two against Turkey and were only two goals away from equalizing the goal difference between the teams – and that gap almost narrowed when Bernardeschi made completed a free kick against the post eight minutes after the start of the second half.
The visitors’ task then became more complicated two minutes later, when Ampadu fell on Bernardeschi’s ankle with his crampons in midfield and received a straight red card.
A goal for Turkey temporarily improved Wales’ position in the squad, but on the pitch they became stretched as Chiesa passed Williams and pushed Belotti to shoot Ward before Rafael Toloi headed the resulting narrowly cornered corner.
News of another strike for Switzerland was followed by a second bad failure in two games for Bale. He sent a penalty far off the target against Turkey and horribly poorly played his unmarked left-footed eight-yard volley against Italy, much to his disbelief and that of the Wales coaching staff.
It could have proved costly, with the Swiss hitting the woods late and Ward saving well from Belotti in the dying moments, but Wales have held their ground and can now look forward to the challenge of repeating their phased exploits. knockout from Euro 2016.
What the managers said …
Italy coach Roberto Mancini at ITV: “We are happy, but we know that after the group stage we are starting a new European Championship. It will be different.
“The guys are very smart, they want to win every game and have a good mentality. We changed eight players and we played a really good game. We played against a good team, but I think we deserved to win.”
Welsh manager Rob Page: “We have second place and that’s that feeling of winning. We knew we were going to play a tough game and sometimes had to dig deep and we absolutely did. Going down to 10 men gave us an even bigger shot. hill to climb, but thanks boys, I can’t talk about them enough. “
Opta stats – Italy undefeated in 30
- Italy are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (25 v., 5 n.) Since their loss to Portugal in September 2018, tying the longest unbeaten streak in their history, which took place between 1935 and 1939.
- Italy have kept their clean sheet in each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, having played only once longer in their history – 12 games without conceding a goal between 1972 and 1974.
- Despite losing today, Wales have now reached the round of 16 in all three of their major tournament appearances (1958 World Cup, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020).
- Aged 20 years and 279 days, Welshman Ethan Ampadu became the second youngest player to be sent off in a European Championship match after John Heitinga (20 years 217 days) for the Netherlands against the Czech Republic in 2004 , while Ampadu is the youngest. to be shown a straight red.
- Italy’s Marco Verratti led all players in this game in hits (136), completed assists (103), chances created (5) and tackles (4), as well as an assist for the only goal. Match.
Group winners Italy face Group C runner-up on Saturday at Wembley at 8pm, while Wales face Group B runner-up on the same day in Amsterdam at 5pm.