Ten-man Wales through to Euro 2020 last-16 despite defeat to impressive Italy in Rome

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italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - AFP via Getty Images
italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - AFP via Getty Images

Rarely can a draining defeat have felt as satisfying as this for Wales, who achieved their goal of finishing second in their group despite an evening in which their legs were sapped and their heads were spun. Reduced to 10 men for most of the second half, Rob Page’s players were forced to grind their way to a result that, in the end, felt more like a victory.

From the moment Ethan Ampadu was dismissed at the start of the second half, Wales relied once again on their much-trumpeted sense of collective unity. In the scorching Italian heat they had to keep the score down and hope that, on the other side of Europe in Baku, Switzerland did not run riot against Turkey.

Wales succeeded in their task, through more hard work and defensive grit, and Switzerland failed in theirs. And so, on the basis of superior goal difference, they clung onto second place in their group and booked a knockout match against one of Belgium, Russia, Finland or Denmark.

Amsterdam awaits for Gareth Bale and this band of brothers that continues to fight for each other, to sweat for the cause and to dream of another grand adventure in a major tournament. “I can’t be any more proud of the boys,” said Page. “They have got the job done. Now the real hard work starts.”

As for what comes next, Wales can only hope to avoid facing another side of Italy’s technical quality. The tournament’s standout team were operating on a different level for much of this game, even before Ampadu’s red, and Wales were perhaps fortunate that they eased off in the second half.

The victory for Italy was their 11th in a row, and it extended their unbeaten run to 30 matches in all competitions. Not since 1939 has an Italian team gone so long without defeat and one can only pity whichever poor side will have to meet them in the latter rounds.

This was not even their first-choice line-up in Rome, yet they controlled the evening with plenty of maturity and no little class.

Roberto Mancini, unruffled and stylish as ever despite the conditions, said afterwards that a “new competition” starts now.

For Wales, this third game marked a continuation of a theme that has defined their tournament so far. Heroes have emerged in each match, from Danny Ward and Kieffer Moore in the opening game to Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale in the second. On this occasion it was the likes of Joe Rodon and Chris Gunter, immovable at the back, who stood up when needed.

“Joe has been brilliant,” said Page. “But to single one player out would be harsh on the others. We had to dig deep at times. Do not underestimate the character of a Welshman.”

Page, in his own words, had gone with his head over his heart by dropping three key players — Ben Davies, Chris Mepham and Moore — to his bench. The trio were all carrying yellow cards, meaning there was a significant risk of suspension for the knockout stages.

When Moore, the giant target man, was thrown into the fray in the second half, Page was so concerned about him picking up a booking that he told him to jump without using his arms. “I said to him, ‘Go on but do not lift your arms’,” said Page. “Watching him jump was hysterical.”

No one on the Wales bench was laughing in the opening 20 minutes, though, when the size of their challenge became painfully clear.

Mancini’s side found their flow straight away, shifting the ball from left to right in a style far more Spanish than Italian.

Italy's Federico Bernardeschi, right is fouled by Wales' Ethan Ampadu, who was sent off for this - AP
Italy's Federico Bernardeschi, right is fouled by Wales' Ethan Ampadu, who was sent off for this - AP

All sorts of questions were being asked of the Welsh midfield, the most pressing of which was how on earth they could stop Marco Verratti and Jorginho from setting the tempo. Better players than Joe Allen and Joe Morrell would struggle to solve that particular puzzle, and it was little surprise to see the brilliant Verratti at the heart of Italy’s goal.

The Paris Saint-Germain orchestrator was the outstanding player of the game and the winner was entirely of his design. First he won the free-kick, then he found Matteo Pessina with the delivery. Ward, the Wales goalkeeper, was moving to one side as the ball went past him on the other.

The second half brought more of the same for Wales, who could only watch as Federico Bernardeschi’s free-kick struck the post. The pressure was on, and the last thing Wales needed was to lose a man to a red card.

Ampadu’s lunging challenge was late, and his studs landed on Bernardeschi’s foot, but the reactions of the players suggested no one expected the straight red. Ampadu was certainly shocked, his face a picture of disbelief as he realised the cost of his actions.

It was only now, down to 10 men and with Switzerland scoring goals in Baku, that the occasion became nervy for Wales. They sat deeper and deeper, aside from one chance for Bale which was volleyed wildly over.

Thankfully for the tiring players in red, Italy clearly decided to settle for their one-goal lead. In the 89th minute they even changed their goalkeeper, replacing Gianluigi Donnarumma with Salvatore Sirigu.

It was a sign that the hosts felt they had done enough, and it would have been a considerable relief for Wales. The defeat was inevitable at this point, but the mission was complete. “Never question this team,” said Ramsey. “We always give everything.” The journey continues.

06:12 PM

Roberto Mancini

"We are happy, but now it is a new European Championship after the group stage. We changed eight players and we played a good game. Wales is a good team but we deserved to win."

06:09 PM

Player Ratings

John Percy assesses the Italy and Wales performances.

Wales player ratings: Danny Ward and Joe Rodon impress despite defeat to Italy

06:08 PM

Aaron Ramsey

"Tough. We are up against a great team. 30 games unbeaten. We dug in for Ethan and feel sorry for him. Maybe a bit harsh, the red, one of them decisions. It was important to stay compact, and maybe we could have nicked a draw on another day.

"We have an attacking threat, we keep games tight, we work hard for each other. We just need to be more consistent, have a bit of belief. We are through in second place and we are delighted."

06:05 PM

Well done Wales

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06:02 PM

Gareth Bale

"We knew it was going to be difficult, and there was a lot of defending, a lot of running out there, a lot of tired bodies. We knew we were losing but we knew also that there was a five goal swing needed. We've got five days to recover and get everyone patched up."

He breaks off his interview to have a word with Roberto Mancini!

"I didn’t see the red card too much, but obviously I’m going to defend Ethan, it was unfortunate."

"Yeah I had a chance but it is what it is. Doesn't really matter because we finished second anyway."

06:00 PM

The Swiss finish third

on four points. If you want to catch up on what happened in Switzerland 3 Turkey 1 then have a butcher's at Rob Bagchi's blog.

05:53 PM

Full time: Italy 1 Wales 0

Italy very impressive, the scoreline no reflection of their total dominance. The Welsh well beaten on the day but fair play, they never crumbled and even when they went down to ten, you couldn't fault their spirit. Today was never going to be that dramatic unless Wales got a hiding - and with the other game finishing 3-1 to Switzerland, it's all good enough for Wales to go through in second place. Well done to them!

We will get to Sam Dean's match report pretty soon I should think.

05:50 PM

90 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Castrovilli effort. Ward with another save. Raspadori with the shot and he manages to push it away from the following-in forward.

05:48 PM

89 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Italy sub their goalie! You don't see that very often. Sirigu comes on for the last few, Donnarumma comes off. Not injured, Mancini just wants to get everyone involved I guess.

05:47 PM

88 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Game all in the Wales half. Belotti lets one rip from the edge of the box. Stinging but ultimately easy save for Ward.

05:45 PM

86 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

The goal hero Pessina is off. Castrovilli on.

05:44 PM

85 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Brooks, Levitt, Ben Davies come on. Bale off. Neco Williams off. Joe Allen off.

05:43 PM

83 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Chiesa is causing a lot of problems. Couple of corners. Chiesa still, to Verratti, played back in... Rodon excellent defending.

05:42 PM

80 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Wales doing well, keeping their shape. "They've kept their discipline as well," says John Harston. "Other than Ampadu getting sent off."

05:38 PM

76 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Pessina has gone in the book, I think for fouling Harry Wilson. Gunter also booked, I think for running his mouth at the ref??

05:38 PM

76 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Few changes. Cristante and Raspadori come on, Jorginho and Bernardeschi off. James gets the hook, Wilson comes on.

05:35 PM

75 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Out of the blue, Bale is suddenly give a fantastic opportunity. A seemingly innocuous ball into the Italy area, headed back across and for some reason, Bale has been left totally unmarked. He sets himself for the volley... but whangs it miles over. That was the moment, perhaps?

05:33 PM

72 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Acerbi and Belotti nearly team up to nick it in at a corner.

Ethan Ampadu has the unfortunate record now of being the youngest man to be sent off in the Euros.

05:30 PM

70 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Nicolo Barella and Manuel Locatelli are having an argument on the Italy bench! Looks like someone has had a sense of humour failure over some mobbing.

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05:27 PM

68 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Bale tries to open the game up but gives it away.

The Swiss have got another! 3-1 to them. Shaqiri the scorer this time..

05:26 PM

67 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Ward comes for the corner and... drops it. Cleared. Panic stations here.

05:26 PM

66 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Italy are really ripping Wales apart here. Ramsey defending desperately in his own box to block Emerson's shot. Close. Corner.

05:25 PM

65 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Bernardeschi with the corner, Toloi gets across the Welsh defence and heads that not far wide. That was their 14th attempt.

05:23 PM

62 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Chiesa impressing. has done Neko Williams, gets to the byline, pulls it back to Belotti. He hits it nicely, and that's a really good save from Ward.

05:23 PM

60 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Best thing that has happened to Wales all day: Turkey have got one back against the Swiss, that's good for the GD.

05:22 PM

58 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Bold from Page - he is taking off Morrell and bringing on Kieffer Moore.

05:16 PM

55 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Ethan Ampadu has been sent off! A high foot, late, hard foul on the ankle of his Italian opponent, Bernardeschi. John Hartson: "that's a yellow card for me." ITV's pet ref Peter Ward: "that is a red card based on the tournament instructions." Hartson's not having it. Ah, the rules. Always those pesky rules.

It was a wild lunge, it could have hurt the opponent, it's a red. I don't think it was a malicious challenge, FWIW, but a red under the rules. VAR check does not save him.

So Wales, already getting the run around, are down to ten.

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05:13 PM

53 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Rare break from Wales - and it leads to a glorious chance. Ramsey gets in behind! He's into the box, holds it up, he is waiting for support but none comes, he has to try something from a narrow angle.

05:12 PM

52 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Bernardeschi drills it low, hits the post! Wales keeper was well beaten there.

05:10 PM

51 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Roberts gives it away, Allen hauls down Belotti. He's in the book, and Italy have a central freekick, 30 yards out.

05:08 PM

49 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Our our us us we we we. ITV pundits have absolutely given up on any sense of objectivity here, by the way. I know it's the modern way but - you know, not everyone watching is Welsh nor wants Wales to win.

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05:04 PM

46 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Bonucci withdrawn at HT, presumably to rest him up. Players have to wait a couple of minutes for kick off here, they have to synchronise with the other game in the group.

05:02 PM

If Swiss and Wales

finish level on GD then the Swiss have scored more goals so they have that tie-breaker in their hands.

04:56 PM

Stats

Italians have had ten shots.

04:55 PM

Italians having most of the ball, as you'd imagine

04:53 PM

The group

So Switzerland are leading Turkey 2-0 and that means they and Wales are level on points with 4. Wales have GD of +1 and Swiss -1 as it stands but to be honest Italy are unlucky not to be more than one up, so it could get a bit hairy for Wales. Third should surely still be enough, though.

04:52 PM

Italian dominance

04:47 PM

Half time: Italy 1 Wales 0

Sorry, horrible tech problems today: in summary of those last few minutes, it was all Italy.

04:45 PM

42 mins: Italy 1 Wales 0

Verratti is at it again, now from the central left, and he's nearly found Pessina again. Ooh that was very close to being the second.

John Hartson says that the back three is not working for Wales, and that they are being over-run in midfield. They are certainly on the ropes here. Italy look in a different class.

04:43 PM

GOAL! Italy 1 Wales 0 (Pessina 39)

Nice freekick, strong suggestion of the training ground, as Verratti delivers it in low from the right on the diagona and Pessina plays a cute little flick into the far corner.

04:36 PM

34 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

James has a freekick and Rodon gets the head on it but it's a weak effort.

04:33 PM

30 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Emerson goes down cheaply in the area. Nobody is really having it and he smiles sheepishly.

04:32 PM

29 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Chiesa puts on the burners and gets past Williams, crosses, half cleared... ball comes back in and Neko Williams abandons his post, leaving that man Chiesa all alone at the back post. Chance. Corner.

04:30 PM

27 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Swiss are two up. Turkey have been a big disappointment, haven't they? Many people had them as dark horses...

04:29 PM

26 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Wales so close! Good whipped in corner from Dan James, Gunter gets the head on it with a near post run and makes a good contact. Oooh just over.

04:27 PM

24 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Bernardeschi and Belotti with an excellent link up, Wales opened up easily here and the ball flashes across the Wales six yard box crying out for a touch.

04:25 PM

22 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Nice moment from Bale 30 yards out, gets his head up and finds Allen. Italy defend this pretty well but Wales's brightest moment so far, and then they recycle and Allen nearly through again.

04:24 PM

20 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Ampadu with a dreadful wild pass that is expertly controlled by... Roberto Mancini. Crowd enjoyed that.

Bastoni with a reducer on Bale.

italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - AFP via Getty
italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - AFP via Getty

04:23 PM

19 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Wales are really up against it here. They've barely had a kick, and when they do get a look at the ball, Italy are pressuring them into mistakes.

Bale not been in it at all.

04:19 PM

16 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Toloi hits a fierce drive, deflection, and nearly pinballed into the net by Pessina. Not sure he knew much about it. Ward grabs it gratefully.

04:17 PM

14 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Rodon makes a vital headed intervention.. Wales under pressure.

04:15 PM

13 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Enrico Chiesa's lad now gets around Gunter... Italy are really giving Wales a going over at the moment.

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04:14 PM

10 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Exceptional ball sends Belotti through in the area, he leaps and tries to volley but cannot quite get there. Possibly offside? But a warning shot for Gunter, he lost his man there...

04:11 PM

8 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Verratti is starting to get on the ball and dictate.

In the other game, Switzerland have taken the lead over Turkey. That is not great for Wales.

04:11 PM

7 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Decent start from Wales, neither side creating much in the way of a chance yet.

04:06 PM

3 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Jorginho with a nibble on James. Early freekick for Wales, from deep, Neco Williams there or thereabouts but this is easy enough for Donnarumma in nets.

04:04 PM

2 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

Bonucci getting on it early and distributing a couple of times.

Italy side - Getty
Italy side - Getty

04:02 PM

1 mins: Italy 0 Wales 0

The whistle is blown. Wales take the knee. Some, but not all, of the Italians join them.

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Fair assessment, I would say. Had the air of confusion rather than defiance.

04:02 PM

Those teams again

Italy: Donnarumma, Toloi, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson Palmieri, Verratti, Jorginho, Pessina, Bernardeschi, Belotti, Chiesa. Subs: Sirigu, Di Lorenzo, Spinazzola, Locatelli, Castrovilli, Insigne, Acerbi, Cristante, Immobile, Barella, Raspadori, Meret.

Wales: Ward, Connor Roberts, Gunter, Rodon, Ampadu, Neco Williams, Morrell, Allen, Ramsey, Bale, James. Subs: Hennessey, Ben Davies, Lockyer, Wilson, Tyler Roberts, Moore, Norrington-Davies, Jonathan Williams, Brooks, Adam Davies, Mepham, Levitt.

Referee: Ovidiu Alin Hategan (Romania)

03:59 PM

Italian one is joyful

Lovely noise, tremendous.

03:57 PM

Two of the best anthems

I suppose stereotypically, the two best singing nations?

Welsh lads doing their best to end that stereotype I must say! Not a chorister among em on that evidence. Harry Secombe, Aled Jones, Katherine Jenkins, Cerys Matthews - weep for your nation.

03:55 PM

13,000

are in the Stadio Olimpico.

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03:54 PM

What formation will Wales use?

Sam writes: "The absence of Kieffer Moore, the target man, means that Wales are likely to play with a false nine today. I expect it will be Aaron Ramsey. In truth, they have not always looked particularly slick with this system, but it should make them even more solid at the back. The hope will be that they can use the pace of Daniel James and Gareth Bale on the counter-attack. The fear is that, without a focal point up front, they won’t be able to get out of their own half at all."

italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Pool/EPA
italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Pool/EPA

03:53 PM

Sam Dean on Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey was sensational against Turkey in midweek and he'll have some extra motivation to do even better today. It has not gone entirely smoothly for him in his two seasons at Juventus and there are some doubts in Italy as to whether his club side will look to offload him in the coming weeks. This trip to Rome therefore provides him with an opportunity to remind the Italian public what he can do. Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi - all starting for Italy - are club team-mates for the Wales midfielder.

03:51 PM

Fans

italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Reuters
italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Reuters

03:45 PM

Rob Page

"Bookings play a massive part so we have made three changes. We want to win this. We have pace up front that can hurt them and in defence we can stand up to them."

03:44 PM

Over in the USA

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03:36 PM

Gareth Bale

"I try to lead by example, that is what I think a captain should do. But we should all be captains on the field. I wanted everyone in the circle after that match - the players, the coaching staff, the media team, the chefs. They all do so much and we are all pulling together."

03:35 PM

Lots of stirring stuff from the Welsh

guys on ITV. "It means everything, I just wish my nan was here"... "it is about honour and pride".... "pulling on that shirt"... "it means everything to me."

And this for a near-dead rubber! They need to leave themselves somewhere to go if you get through, boys.

03:28 PM

Giorgio Chiellini speaks to ITV

"I am okay, I will start running today or next day and see how I am next few days.

We have spent a lot of energy in the last few days so it is important to use all of the [squad].

Our strength is the group, we have grown up together over the last three years. We want to enjoy the stadium and the fans and Rome. Very happy to be in Rome.

I love Ramsey, he is a fantastic player, very intelligent. He has been unlucky with injuries. Bale of course everyone knows. And I like a lot James of Manchester United, he is growing up."

03:20 PM

Here's Sam Dean

They've made eight changes, but Italy are still formidable opponents. Just a have a look at some of these stats:

- They are unbeaten in 29 matches in all competitions, last losing in September 2018

- If they avoid defeat against Wales today, they will equal their all-time longest unbeaten run of 30 games (set between 1935 and 1939)

- They have won each of their last 10 matches, going 965 minutes without conceding and scoring 31 goals

02:59 PM

Italy have made eight changes

So Wales might fancy their chances

02:59 PM

Teams in full

Italy: Donnarumma, Toloi, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson Palmieri, Verratti, Jorginho, Pessina, Bernardeschi, Belotti, Chiesa. Subs: Sirigu, Di Lorenzo, Spinazzola, Locatelli, Castrovilli, Insigne, Acerbi, Cristante, Immobile, Barella, Raspadori, Meret.

Wales: Ward, Connor Roberts, Gunter, Rodon, Ampadu, Neco Williams, Morrell, Allen, Ramsey, Bale, James. Subs: Hennessey, Ben Davies, Lockyer, Wilson, Tyler Roberts, Moore, Norrington-Davies, Jonathan Williams, Brooks, Adam Davies, Mepham, Levitt.

Referee: Ovidiu Alin Hategan (Romania)

02:56 PM

Inflatable pig!

An inflatable pig - Reuters
An inflatable pig - Reuters

02:51 PM

Teams!

Italy: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Emerson, Alessandro Bastoni, Leonardo Bonucci (captain), Rafael Toloi; Matteo Pessina, Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi; Andrea Belotti

Wales: Danny Ward; Chris Gunter, Neco Williams, Joe Rodon, Connor Roberts, Ethan Ampadu; Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Morrell; Daniel James, Gareth Bale (captain).

02:44 PM

Flag day

Italy fans pose with a flag inside the stadium before the match - Reuters
Italy fans pose with a flag inside the stadium before the match - Reuters

02:40 PM

These lads will be a stern test for Wales

italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Getty
italy vs wales live euro 2020 score team news updates - Getty

02:39 PM

Fans in Rome

Fans of Italy wearing wigs and face masks - Getty
Fans of Italy wearing wigs and face masks - Getty

02:26 PM

Taking place at the same

time as this match, it's Switzerland vs Turkey. Rob Bagchi will be live blogging that.

02:16 PM

What do Wales need to do, then?

Probably just not get battered. Four points already in the bag, there's lovely, and surely going through no matter what.

02:14 PM

Here's a good one

Gareth Bale rejects Italy coach Roberto Mancini's assessment that Wales resemble Stoke City

"Ahead of today's game, the Italian said Stoke had a very tough style of play and he expected a similar test from Wales, adding Gareth Bale's side also possessed the technical skills to trouble his team.

Asked for his reaction to Mancini's comments, Bale told a news conference: 'I never knew Stoke were that good'."

01:18 PM

Wales vs Italy preview

As if reading lines from an identical script, the Wales players have delivered the same message over and over in these past few days: they go into today's game against Italy with "no pressure" and "no fear". It is an approach that has served them well so far, especially in their stirring victory over Turkey, and there is clearly no reason to change it now.

The trip to Rome, however, will provide the sternest test yet of these principles. Firstly, because Italy are the most formidable team in the tournament, on the basis of their opening two matches at least. Secondly, because Wales now have something to lose. Second place in Group A is within their grasp and there must be a temptation, however slight, to cling onto what they have rather than push for more.

If Wales beat Italy, they will finish in first place and travel to Wembley. If they draw, they will guarantee second place and a knockout tie in Amsterdam. If they lose, it becomes a little more complicated — even if third should still be enough to take them through. Wales are three points clear of Switzerland, with a superior goal difference of five. They can probably lose to Italy and still finish second, provided they do not receive a thrashing from Roberto Mancini’s side.

Avoiding a heavy defeat is unfortunately easier said than done. Italy have resembled a footballing juggernaut in these first days of the tournament, racking up commanding 3-0 victories over both Turkey and Switzerland. They look defensively secure and offensively dangerous, and they boast one of the continent's most exciting midfields.

Rob Page's side will therefore be expecting long spells of pressure and vanishingly few spells of possession. Wales enjoyed 36 per cent of the ball against Turkey, and 35 per cent against Switzerland. That figure is unlikely to be any higher in Rome.

"It is a big challenge," said Page. "Of course it is. We will have to suffer without the ball. We will have to do a lot of defending."

The Welsh fans are known as the 'Red Wall' and the sense is that the players will need to form a wall of their own on Sunday. Defend deep, close down the spaces, dominate in the air and counter-attack with pace. Centre-backs Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon, superb against Turkey, will need to produce another defensive masterclass. Joe Allen and Joe Morrell, two Championship midfielders, must find a way of slowing down Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Manuel Locatelli.

For Wales there is encouragement to be found in their first two performances of the tournament, when they survived periods of near-overwhelming pressure, and in their defensive record leading up to this summer. In their eight previous competitive fixtures before the start of the championship, Rob Page's side kept an impressive six clean sheets. Only Belgium, who scored three past them in a World Cup qualifier in March, have caused major problems for the Welsh defence.

The caveat is that, aside from Belgium, none of their opponents in this run of fixtures had the same quality as Italy, but the point remains that Wales are usually a solid side. The foundations are in place, on and off the pitch, and their hope is that the defensive security will once again provide a platform for Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale to cause havoc at the other end.

"We don't want to limp across the line," said Page. "We want to qualify in style and get where we deserve, which in my opinion is in the top two. We will select a team that we believe can win the game. It would take something massive but we are capable of doing it."

There can be no underestimating the impact that Ramsey and Bale have on the mentality of this team. The speed of Daniel James, too, gives the defensive players belief that they can always hurt the opposition. It is easier for the defenders to throw their bodies on the line, to fight with everything they have got, when they know that the stars of this side need just one moment to create something special at the other end.

After quiet showings against Switzerland, Ramsey and Bale returned to form in style against Turkey. Ramsey’s all-action performance was one of the best he has ever produced in a Wales shirt, while Bale became the first player in recorded European Championship history to create five clear-cut chances in one match.

"We go in to win," said Bale. "We never go into a game to get a draw. Italy play attacking football and do not concede many but that does not mean there are no weaknesses. We have done our homework and we believe there are areas we can exploit and hopefully that goes to perfection."

With wise old heads like Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in their defence, Italy will be taking nothing for granted. But they will, obviously, be confident. They have won their last 10 games, scoring 31 goals and conceding none. Their last defeat was by Portugal in September 2018, 29 matches ago. If their form does not challenge Wales' fearless nature, then nothing will.

Wales know their own strengths, though, and their togetherness as a group should serve them well in the difficult moments in Rome. After the final whistle on Wednesday, following the victory over Turkey, Bale gathered all the players in a huddle on the pitch and told them their team spirit is "unique". That unity, forged by a sense of adventure and enhanced by the mix of characters within their squad, appears to be unbreakable. The players know they can rely on each other, and the coaches have a clear plan of action when it comes to their tactical approach.

Whether all this will be enough against the might of Italy is, of course, another matter. Wales have developed a habit for answering testing questions, but no one can pretend this is not the toughest one yet.

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