Euro 2020: Day 10
Italy ensured they finished Group A winners with a slender 1-0 victory over Wales in Rome. As expected, Italy manager Roberto Mancini rang in the changes for this one, knowing even a draw would see them finish top of the group, most notably with both wing backs changing and Belotti given the opportunity to lead the line. Wales, although in second, knew they still needed to avoid disaster at the Stadio Olimpico and hope that Switzerland didn’t do enough in the other game to at least secure second, although in truth even in defeat and a goal difference swing their 4 points should be enough to see them through in 3rd place, with only 8 teams going out at the first group stages.
Hosts Italy dominated from the off, Wales keeper Danny Ward being the most worked member of the squad as he continued his fine tournament with some fine saves, while Italy were also guilty of wasting several chances as they enjoyed the majority of the ball. The pressure eventually told 6 minutes before the break, when Italy took the lead from a free kick. A superb delivery into the area was met by the deftest of touches from Matteo Pessina, which proved enough to send the ball beyond the outstretched arms of Ward and into the bottom corner.
After the break it was a familiar tale, and news that Switzerland were winning led to some nerves in those Wales fans that had made the trip, although they were boosted when Turkey pulled one back. On the pitch, the task of getting something from the game, however, was made even more difficult when Ethan Ampadu received a straight red card, becoming the youngest player ever to be sent off in the European Championships, as he appeared to stand on the ankle of Federico Bernardeschi.
The dismissal played into Italy’s hands, happy to conserve some energy and play over the top or behind the defence at will, Chiesa causing all sorts of problems for the Welsh defence. For their part, Wales dug deep, defended resolutely, and actually had the chance to snatch something when Gareth Bale wasted a great chance to volley home on his left foot from close range. It proved to be the only opening they could muster, while Italy seemed happy to make changes and play down the clock, securing 3 points and a 100% record in the group stages, where they have yet to concede a goal.
Switzerland, probably expecting Italy to do them a favour in Rome, were clearly up for doing their part in Baku as they faced Turkey in another hostile crowd, taking the lead after just 6 minutes as Haris Seferovic produced a superb curled finish to put them in front. In their best attacking performance of the tournament to date, the lead was then doubled 20 minutes later, when star midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri smashed in a superb effort from range, Ugurcan Cakir having no chance. Turkey at least created some threat in the first half, looking for their first goal this tournament, and perhaps would have got it were it not for the form of Yann Sommer in the Swiss goal.
After the break, Switzerland again began to turn the screw, obviously aware of events in Rome, but Turkey eventually broke their duck with a goal of quality, enjoyed by both the largely partisan Baku crowd and equally by the travelling Welsh fans in Rome, when youngster Irfan Can Kahveci smashed one in from range in direct challenge to Shaqiri for goal of the tournament. Not to be outdone, Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri then added his second of the game to restore the two goal advantage, this time finding himself on the end of a blistering counter attack as both sides continued to attack. It proved to be the last goal in a game of many chances for both sides, the result seeing Switzerland finish on 4 points but behind Wales on goal difference, although there is a likelihood they will have done enough to be one of the best four 3rd place group finishers, so their tournament may not be over. Turkey, meanwhile, who came into this tournament tipped as a dark horse by some, a mixture of exciting new youth and the experienced Yilmaz, very much failed to live up to the promise despite the attacking display this afternoon, scoring just once in three games and finishing without a single point.
Today sees the conclusion of Group B and C, with Belgium looking to secure top spot against Finland, and though I expect them to also make wholesale changes, I expect they will pick up the win. Denmark will be searching for a victory over Russia in the other game, and I think they should have enough to get the job done against a Russian defence who have yielded plenty of chances to date. Netherlands are another with qualification already wrapped up and the opportunity to make changes, and I’m looking forward to seeing Malen and Gravenberch being given an opportunity to shine, and I can’t see beyond a win against North Macedonia regardless of squad selection. Ukraine against Austria is far harder to call, both have everything to play for in the battle for second, both have shown glimpses of ability but also errors. If Austria persist with Alaba at the back, I’m siding with the Ukraine, and the impressive front pairing to get the job done.Share this: