Wales underdog tag sitting well with the Euros dreamers

·3-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

Wales fans have got used to dreaming big — and this squad is daring them to do so again.

Five years ago, at Euro 2016, Wales and their supporters enjoyed a fairytale summer as they made it to the semi-finals in France.

They have a long way to go to equal that feat, but after beating Turkey 2-0 on Wednesday, they head into their final Group A match with Italy on Sunday knowing a place in the last 16 is within touching distance.

Their tally of four points means, at worst, they should qualify for the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams, while their goal difference means they should finish second, so long as they avoid a heavy defeat in Rome.

If Wales lose to group leaders Italy, Switzerland must beat Turkey in Baku on the same afternoon and overhaul a five-goal deficit. Should Turkey and Switzerland draw, or Turkey win, Wales are through, no matter what happens in Rome.

But, as has become their way since Euro 2016, Wales are dreaming big — and the prospect of beating Italy and winning the group is now their target. It would set up a last-16 showdown at Wembley with the runners-up of Group C — one of the Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria — which only adds to the appeal.

"Wembley is a very special stadium for many reasons," said Wales defender Chris Mepham. "I think wherever we play we'll look forward to the game and our aim is to 100 per cent top the group. If we can do that against Italy, then that's brilliant.

"We are going to go to Rome and take the game to them and try to get the win, like we do every other game."

There is certainly a very Euro 2016 feel about Wales, not least because it was Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey who combined for their opening goal during the win over Turkey.

The two were stars of the Wales squad in France and they are leading from the front again.

They are being joined, however, by a growing group of players who are keen to make their own mark. Connor Roberts, who scored the second goal against Turkey, is one of those — and he is excited by what could lie ahead.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"They [the squad in 2016] got much further than this," he said.

"So, I can't imagine the feelings they had five years ago, because this feeling for me, and I am sure I speak for a few of the boys, is unbelievable right now — and we've won one game. Hopefully, we can try and take momentum into Sunday and beyond."

The challenge of taking on Italy, who have won both their games so far, in Rome is a great one for Wales — but they hold no fear going into the clash.

"We have talked plenty about 2016," said Joe Allen. "But we didn't want it to be a flash in the pan, a one-off. There are a lot of lads here who haven't experienced it and the ones who have are hungry to have another crack at it.

"We are ambitious. We are the underdogs once again and it's a tag we enjoy. Like we did last time, we are throwing absolutely everything at it."

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