Italy are living up to their billing as one of the most in-form national teams and one of the pre-tournament favorites with a second consecutive 3-0 win to begin their Euro 2020 campaign, becoming the first nation to book their spot in the knockout rounds, even.
And they are proving true the old adage that most games of football are won or lost in midfield. Their trio of Manuel Locatelli, Nicolò Barella, and Jorginho have been running the show, with Locatelli especially, the youngest and least experienced or well known (Verratti who?), turning heads with his performances, including the brace last night against Switzerland.
The AC Milan youth product, once considered next in line in the succession of midfield excellence at the club (Ancelotti to Albertini to Pirlo), has been plying his trade at Sassuolo for the last three years — incidentally, sent there in the first place because Milan loaned in Tiémoué Bakayoko from Chelsea — but his agent is sure to be busy in the next few weeks and months.
Home town hero Ciro Immobile added a third late on for the Azzurri, the Lazio man adding to his impressive record of scoring at the Stadio Olimpico, now with 39 goals in 46 appearances since 2019-20.
Jorginho played the full 90, just as he did in the first game, and he might not get a rest in the third match either since Italy will need to beat Wales to ensure top spot in the group. Emerson has yet to play, and given the quality contributions of Leonardo Spinazzola on the left flank, he might not get to play much at all.
As alluded to, a Gareth Bale-inspired Wales beat Turkey, 2-0, in the other match of Group A earlier in the day. Wales now need just a point against Italy on Sunday to guarantee a spot in the Last 16. Since Wales drew with Switzerland in the first game, and since four of the six third-placed teams in the group stages also advance, all three teams remain alive mathematically.
Ethan Ampadu again did not start for Wales, but saw a bit more action than in the first game, coming on for the last quarter hour to help see out the clean sheet and the win.
And also Russia beat Finland, 1-0, at the start of the day, to give both teams one win in the Belgium-heavy Group B.