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Italy 1 Wales 0 Sheer bloody mindedness see’s Wales through
Monday, 21st Jun 2021 09:00 by Gruff Stephens

Wales and Italy are the first teams to qualify for the last sixteen of the Euros after Ethan Ampaduu was sent off for an innocuous stamp in a midfield challenge, making him the second youngest player to ever be sent off in the history of the competition. Robert Page and his players can now look forward to a second round match against Group B's runners-up in Amsterdam next Saturday. Italy will face Group C runners-up - Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria or North Macedonia - in the last 16

A rearguard action that could have easily gone wrong after Ampadu’s sending off sent Wales through on goal difference over Switzerland in the final group A game in Rome . Robert Page made three changes to his starting eleven, highlighting Wales lack of strength in depth but it was enough, just. Italy made eight changes reaffirming their dominance of the group and it could have been more. On Ampadu refereeing expert Peter Walton said: "You can clearly see Ampadu was late with his challenge there, he comes down forcibly on the Italian defender’s ankle, VAR will check this but I’m afraid it’s going to be a red card because in the pre-match instructions from Uefa means this type of foul will be a sending off” Fruit machine fan Nathan Blake added: "It's a nasty one I have to say, it's the sort of challenge that could leave Federico Bernardeschi with a broken ankle. Goes with a stretched right foot and just catches him in the ankle. He's obviously not meant it. He'll be devastated."

With all that being said Gareth Bale missed a second half sitter by his standards, and Chris Gunter earning his 102nd cap nearly scored his first goal for Wales. However, that was pretty much all Wales could offer in a less than exciting start to the game. Defensive chess is the best way to describe the first half an hour, but when Italy woke up and pushed on they looked the far more likelier to score. And as expected that did happen. From a set piece Luton Town’s Joe Morrell was caught ball watching as Pessini stole in to deflect his shot in to the corner of the Wales net. The expected droves supporting Wales never arrived, and the expected discipline you would expect at this level was definitely missing with minutes to go to half time. Danny Ward in the Wales goal had no chance, but Italy should never had the opportunity to go one up.

Nothing much changed in the second half but it was sheer bloody mindedness that took Wales through. Davies and Moore came on to gamble their yellow cards to keep the score down to one goal, and there can be no more satisfied man in Italy tonight than Robert Page. Ward continued his heroics, Rodon was simply astounding, and the battling of Roberts ensured that Switzerland will have an agonising wait to see if they qualify as third best placed qualifiers over the next few days. They beat Turkey 3-1 in the other group game. It wasn’t enough.

All told, after a week of international football, Wales have once again defied the odds.

"We wanted to get a result but main thing is we finished second," Gareth Bale told British broadcaster ITV. Wales finished with a goal difference advantage of two over Switzerland."We've got a bit of a break now, so we can patch everyone up and get going again," Bale added. Although disappointed to lose Wales have achieved a remarkable landmark once again in the Euros. A country of three million, the population of Birmingham has once again laughed in the face of all the odds and the experts to smile proudly tonight awaiting whoever it is they play next Saturday in Amsterdam.

Italy: Donnarumma (Sirigu 89); Toloi, Bonucci (C) (Acerbi 46), Bastoni, Emerson; Pessina (Castrovilli 87), Jorginho (Cristante 75), Veratti; Chiesa, Belotti, Bernardeschi (Raspadori 75).

Subs not used: Meret, Di Lorenzo, Spinazzola, Locatelli, Insigne, Immobile, Barella.

Goal: Pessina 39

Yellow card: Pessina 79

Wales: Ward; Ampadu, Rodon, Gunter; C Roberts, Allen (Levitt 86), Morrell (Moore 60), N Williams (B Davies 86); Bale (C) (Brooks 86), Ramsey, James (Wilson 75).

Subs not used: Hennessey, A Davies, Lockyer, T Roberts, Norrington-Davies, J Williams, Mepham.

Yellow cards: Allen 52, Gunter 79

Red card: Ampadu 55

Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan

The red wall in 2016 is getting closer to reliving the dream in 2021

Match facts from the BBC
Aged 20 years and 279 days, Wales' 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 outright youngest to be shown a straight red.

Italy are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (W25 D5) since losing against Portugal in September 2018, equalling the longest unbeaten run in their history, set between 1935 and 1939.

Wales have lost six of their seven competitive matches against Italy (W1), including all five that took place outside Wales.

Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their past 11 matches in all competitions, only going on a longer run once before in their history - 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.

Wales have now reached the knockout stages in all three of their appearances at major tournaments - the 1958 World Cup, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020.

Italy have kept a clean sheet in 22 of their 41 European Championship matches (54%), three more than any other side (Germany, 18).

Italy made eight changes to their starting eleven for this match, their joint-most between games at a major tournament.

Italy's Marco Verratti led all players in this match for touches (136), passes completed (103), chances created (five) and tackles (four), as well as assisting the goal.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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