In the last Euro 2020 Group A match, Italy – parading one of their most exciting squads in years – took on Wales. For the Italians, the only question remaining unanswered was the number of points with which they’d secure qualification. For Wales, on the other hand, a harsh defeat combined with Switzerland’s defeat of Turkey could, technically, have spelled an end to their Euro run.
Italy had been of the most exciting teams in the tournament. With two clear victories under their belt, manager Roberto Mancini opted to hand an opportunity to a few fresh pair of legs. The formation may have stayed the same in the form of a 4-3-3. However, the likes of Alessandro Bastoni and Matteo Pessina earned their place in the starting line-up.
Wales, energized after their terrific victory over Turkey, looked to highlight their few albeit considerable strengths. Once again, Gareth Bale was asked to play as the team’s most advanced player in a 5-3-2 system. Aaron Ramsey coordinated the midfielder area. Meanwhile, Sheffield United defender Ethan Ampadu received the chance to start in defense.
Mancini’s choices paid off. Much like they did in their first two fixtures, Italy dominated possession, finding space down the flanks and creating copious goal chances.
The first came in the 12th minute when Andrea Belotti, deputizing for Ciro Immobile, came agonizingly close to scoring from close range.
Next, Emerson, emerging down the left-hand side, challenged goalkeeper Danny Ward. Rafael Toloi and Federico Chiesa got their shots on goal as well.
Wales’ only clear-cut chance came courtesy of Chris Gunter who only managed to head the ball above the crossbar from a few meters of space.
Italy finally managed to break the deadlock in the final stages of the first half. Marco Verratti’s well-taken free-kick was tapped into the net by Matteo Pessina. The Atalanta player, only on his sixth cap for the national team, looked delighted with his involvement.
In the second half, Wales switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Ramsey joining the attack line. In the other game, Switzerland was leading Turkey by two goals.
In the 52nd minute, Federico Bernadeschi’s well-taken free-kick from 20 meters out beat Ward but hit the post. Then, in the 55th minute, defender Ethan Ampadu stomped on Bernadeschi’s ankle and earned himself a direct red card. With one man down, Wales threw caution to the wind and focused simply on not conceding further.
The highly technical Chiesa was often in the center of attention. In the 64th minute, the teenager sped down the right flank, crossed to Belotti, but Ward managed to save.
Wales’ hard work and persistence earn them qualification as well. For the small nation, it’s a remarkable achievement, one that adds to their recent tally. Switzerland may also earn a place in the Round of 16, but their display has once again been subpar.
Italy ended the group with a maximum number of points. Throughout the three matches, Mancini’s team performed up to expectations. They’ve won with their starters and they’ve won with their substitutes. The only question is what they can do against better opposition. They may not get a chance to find out until the Quarter-Finals. Austria or Ukraine will be the Italians’ opponents in the Round of 16.
Does Italy have what it takes to win Euro 2020? Nothing throughout the first three matches has convinced us otherwise.
June 20, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group A
SCORERS: 39′ Pessina
|ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma (89’ Sirigu); Toloi, Bonucci (46′ Acerbi), Bastoni, Emerson; Pessina (87’ Castrovilli), Jorginho (75′ Cristante), Verratti; Chiesa, Belotti, Bernardeschi (75′ Raspadori) (Meret, Spinazzola, Di Lorenzo, Locatelli, Barella, Immobile, Insigne) Coach: Mancini|
|WALES (3-4-3): Ward; Rodon, Ampadu, Gunter; C. Roberts, Morrell (60′ Moore), Allen (86’ Levitt), N. Williams (86’ Davies); Bale (86’ Brooks), Ramsey, James (74′ Wilson) (Hennessey, Davies, Norrington-Davies, Lockyer, Mepham, J. Williams, T. Roberts) Coach: Page|
REFEREE: Hategan (Romania)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Pessina (I), Allen, Gunter (W); Red Card: Ampadu (W); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 3′