Italy impress again as Wales qualify for Euro 2020 last 16 despite defeat

Italy 1-0 Wales: Matteo Pessina scored the only goal of the game as the Azzurri made it three wins out of three in Group A and cemented their status as maybe the team to beat

Italy just doesn’t let up, securing first place in top gear. Through this 1-0 win over Wales that had the feel of a 4-0, Roberto Mancini’s side also ensured a 100% record. That is fitting for a group that has fast become the team of the tournament because they have done everything so far at a maximum.

Another consequence of that was Wales managing a hugely valuable second place by the minimal margin, as they eked out Switzerland on goal difference, and after a fair bit of anxiety. The result means they won’t have anything like a challenge as difficult as this in the second round, as they are likely to play one of Finland or Russia. That will feel like a training exercise after this.

Reduced to 10 men as Ethan Ampadu resorted to a desperate – but not necessarily red card-worthy – challenge, Wales was just another side swept away by the waves of emotion and force at the Stadio Olimpico.

It is almost a pity this was Italy’s last game in Rome because they have been among the best occasions at the tournament. The singing of the anthem was again a cultural event in itself, and so loud that it sounded like the Stadio Olimpico was full to its 70,000 capacity. It was spine-tingling.

A fair question is whether a move away from here to Wembley for the last 16 will affect Italy’s performance, but Mancini’s eight changes didn’t. They still had all that momentum, all that movement.

This what was so encouraging about a game that could have been a dead rubber. It instead reverberated with more life, more energy. Mancini made eight changes but Italy just picked up from where they were against Switzerland. They just kept going forward, in waves that eventually overwhelmed Wales in the way it did everyone else so far.

Even that set-piece opening goal was also a sweeping move, the ball just being whirled through by the sheer adventure of Italy’s play. Long before that breakthrough, Wales had just been battered back around their own area, almost completely unable to get out.

The ball seemed to spend so much time whizzing across their box, just missing that key touch. Italy was still going so close though. Andrea Belotti flashed just wide, Federico Chiesa had one powerful drive cleared off the line by Ampadu.

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