Euro 2020

The Azzurri march on, defeating Wales to finish in first place in the group

Italy reach 30 games unbeaten thanks to a goal from Pessina, equalling Pozzo's record. They will return to the pitch on 26 June at Wembley for the Round of 16 tie against Ukraine or Austria

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Azzurri march on, defeating Wales to finish in first place in the group

Thirty games unbeaten… and great value for it. The national team defeated Wales 1-0, securing qualification to the Round of 16 in first place and extending their unbeaten streak to 30 (25 wins and 5 draws), equalling the record set more than eighty years ago by Vittorio Pozzo's Italy. After taking the spoils at the Olimpico, the Azzurri will face either Ukraine or Austria at Wembley on Saturday 26 June (Kick-Off at 21:00 CEST), a destination that they hope to return to in July as one of the final four teams of this European Championship. Thanks Matteo Pessina’s goal, Italy earned their eleventh win in a row while keeping their eleventh consecutive clean sheet in the process, confirming their solidity and hunger for victory.

The characters changed (eight changes), but the story remained the same for the national team, who looked like a club side due to their organisation and collective commitment, not altering their gameplan based on the opponent. Italy wanted the ball at their feet, they attacked so as not to be attacked, they knew how to defend themselves and the right moments to strike. A perfect drive, straight-sailing so far but aware that the most dangerous corners are yet to come - starting with Saturday's match in London, the first away from home of this European Championship.

MATCH REPORT. With qualification for the Round of 16 already in their pockets and with hopes of playing seven games in a month, turnover was necessary, if not inevitable. And so, Mancini made eight changes from the match against Switzerland, with only Donnarumma, Bonucci and Jorginho keeping their place in the team. Bastoni took Chiellini's place in the middle of the defence, while it was Toloi's turn on the right and, on the other side, Emerson came in for Spinazzola. Verratti made his debut in the European Championship alongside Jorginho in midfield, while Pessina played the role of Barella. The attacking trident was also new, with Belotti, Chiesa and Bernardeschi being given their chance. Having finished third in the last Euros in France, and sitting 17th in the FIFA rankings, Wales made for an uncomfortable opponent, their star man being Gareth Bale. Juventus’ Ramsey provided quality and experience, but Robert Page's team proved not unbeatable in the defensive phase, with goalkeeper Danny Ward being called into action many times so far.

Playing with black armbands to remember Giampiero Boniperti, who sadly passed away earlier on this week, Italy once again relied on their passing game, with Bonucci providing impetus from the back. Wales, meanwhile, were defending with a back five and aiming to get Ramsey, who was positioned in the final third and looking to pick out James and Bale’s forward runs, involved. After an opportunity for Belotti, who was unable to make the most of an excellent cross from Bastoni, Ward comfortably saved an effort from Emerson from distance. Then, in the 24th minute, Belotti fired a ball across the six-yard box that Chiesa was just unable to meet. Shortly afterwards, Gunter headed narrowly over from James’ corner. It was only a brief scare, however, as Italy continued to control the game and have chances to take the lead. On the 30-minute mark, Chiesa controlled Bastoni’s cross well but was denied by Ampadu’s crucial clearance. In the 39th minute, Italy broke through: Matteo Pessina got on the end of Verratti’s free kick and produced a lovely volleyed finish to net his third Azzurri goal. Fantastic scenes followed, with the Atalanta man running to the bench to celebrate with his teammates. It could have been two a minute later, but the same player couldn’t quite convert from close range.

Mancini made a half-time change, bringing on Acerbi for Bonucci. After 53 minutes, Bernardeschi let fly with a 30-yard free-kick that hit the post, while Donnarumma and Jorginho did enough to thwart Ramsey after a mistake by Acerbi at the back. With 55 minutes on the clock, Ampadu fouled Bernardeschi and received a straight red card, leaving Wales down to ten men. While Wales wanted an equaliser, they couldn’t afford to lose their shape and risk conceding more: a heavy defeat had the potential to cost them second place in the group and, in turn, automatic qualification. However, space did inevitably open up as the impressive Chiesa picked out Belotti, whose effort was blocked by Ward’s legs. Jorginho was also putting in an impressive performance, although the whole side deserved credit for the drive they were showing out on the pitch. Mancini sent on Cristante for Jorginho and Raspadori, who came on for his European Championship debut, for Bernardeschi. Seconds later, Bale wasted a huge chance for Wales, volleying over from a great position. Pessina was then applauded off the field as Castrovilli took his place, while Sirigu also enjoyed a few minutes of playing time. In the final few minutes, Cristante had a crack with his right foot from range, but Ward managed to keep it out. It finished 1-0 at the Olimpico, and Italy are now preparing to pack their suitcases. The Azzurri’s European Championship journey will continue on Saturday in London, and the hope is it’s going to carry on for a good while yet.

The Itinerary

Monday 21 June
17:30 - Rome-Florence train

Tuesday 22 June
**14:00 - Players on media duties
*18:00 - Training (behind-closed-doors)

Wednesday 23 June
**14:00 - Players on media duties
*18:00 - Training (behind-closed-doors)

Thursday 24 June
**14:00 - Players on media duties
*18:00 - Training (behind-closed-doors)

Friday 25 June
Chartered departure for Round of 16 game

* photos will be taken and shared by FIGC 
**media access will be limited to reduced numbers



20 June 2021