Italy’s clean sheet streak passed 1,000 minutes and is still going strong and Matteo Pessina’s goal gave the hosts Group A in a 1-0 win over 10-man Wales on Sunday.
[ 3 THINGS: Switzerland v Turkey ]
Atalanta’s Pessina turned in a free kick from returning Marco Verratti before halftime, and Ethan Ampadu was sent off shortly after halftime to help Italy cruise through the match apart from a Gareth Bale-sized scare.
The Italians and Welsh both move to the knockout rounds while third-place Switzerland isn’t through yet but well-positioned to get into the final 16.
3 things from Italy – Wales
1. Depth enough to anoint Italy the favorite? Roberto Mancini changed almost his entire lineup for the third match, willing to put the top of the group in question against a Wales side who isn’t a power but hasn’t looked bad in taking four of six points from Switzerland and Turkey.
Maybe there’s some cheating in that description, as Marco Verratti might be the nations’ best player and he missed the first two games through injury. This team is really, really good, and Pessina’s goal attested to this with his cheeky-enough redirection celebrated with cool, calm, and confidence. Spinazzola, Immobile, Locatelli, and Acerbi out? No big deal. Watch out.
2. Unlucky Ampadu, Bale: Ampadu’s red card couldn’t be overturned by VAR as a clear and obvious error, but it also wouldn’t have been upgraded to red were it to have originally been a yellow. And further viewing make it see like the youngster’s studs-up challenge into the ankle of Federico Bernadeschi would be a yellow card nine times out of 10.
Bale’s unluckiness really was more a lack of execution when fortune fell his way at the back post via a chance with a tricky degree of difficulty, the Wales captain slashing an unmarked, left-footed side volley over the bar that could’ve tied the match at 1 for his 10-man Dragons.
3. What’s next for the Group A teams? Italy will meet the Group C runner-up, which seems likely to be the Ukraine-Austria winner unless North Macedonia stuns the Netherlands and opens the door to the top of the group. Ukraine can draw Austria and get the spot.
Wales will face the Group B runner-up, which could be any of the four teas though it’s more likely to be Russia or Finland and less to be Belgium or Denmark. Switzerland’s four points should be enough for the knockouts.
Man of the Match: Marco Verratti
All he did in returning from a long knee injury absence is assist the lone goal, make 136 touches, contribute five key passes, win four tackles, and complete over 100 passes.
Italy aren't slowing down anytime soon! 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/ULx5eTglge
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 20, 2021