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Italy, Wales make it to Euros knockout phase from Group A

A perfect record for Jorginho, Emerson et al

Italy v Wales - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Out of Italy, Wales, Switzerland and Turkey, only the first were able to seal their (good) fate in Group A of the Euros. In the last day of their group stage, emotions were bound to be quite high as the Swiss national team faced a “down and out” Turkey team in Baku, Azerbaijan, and the Italians hosting Wales at their capital, Rome.

Switzerland had to beat Turkey and overcome a five-goal difference with help of Italy to take over second-place in the group from Wales, and they manage to do the former handily with a 3-1 win over the Turkish national team. But the simple 1-0 win from Italy over Wales to finish the group stage with a perfect record was not enough to help the Swiss, who will have to hope for very adverse results from other third-placed teams to make it to knockout phase.

Although Turkey’s only chance of making to knockout phase was via an (improbable) best third-place slot, they wanted to show from the get-go they would still fight for glory at the Euros. They got close to it, forcing an intervention by Yann Sommer 4 minutes into the match.

Though it was Turkey who got the first shot at goal of the match, Switzerland would be the ones getting the opener. With a low, powerful shot just 20 yards from the goal, Haris Seferovic’s attempt was enough to beat goalkeeper Ugurcan Çakir a sixth time during the entire competition.

The second goal would arrive 20 minutes later. This time Xherdan Shaqiri tried his luck from the edge of the box, but with more height and power than Seferovic.

Shaqiri nearly made it 3-0 for the Swiss only a couple of minutes after his score after a great break set up by Severovic. Çakir however made a timely intervention to prevent further harm to the Turkish national team at Baku.

The best chances before the end of the first half would come from Turkey, with Mert Muldur twice forcing Yann Sommer to fall on his right side to stop potential goals.

Switzerland needed to overcome a five-goal difference to finish the group in second place and thus grab a berth to knockouts. But their slow start to the second half of the match made it seem as that was not the case for them, with the Swiss team slowing the pace of the match and letting Turkey dream of an upset.

Soon Switzerland would have to pay for their laid back approach. With a long-range attempt, Irfan Kahveci beats Sommer for Turkey’s first goal of the tournament.

The goal did have the benefit of waking Switzerland up again. Six minutes after Kahveci’s score, Shaqiri would restore the Swiss’ two-goal lead to keep their second-place dreams alive.

Switzerland would still come close to scoring another goal via Granit Xhaka. But as the match came close to its end, so did the Swiss’ stamina and will to add more goals to what was already a good victory for them.

With a draw being enough to have both Italy and Wales moving through to the final phase, there could have been a “gentleman’s agreement” of sorts where both teams would play for said result — as we have seen in previous editions of similar competitions. But it seems these days are (thankfully) long gone, with Italy carrying all the drive to finish the Euros’ group stage with a perfect campaign.

Italy dominated possession and goalscoring chances throughout the first half, and Chelsea left-back Emerson got close to scoring. After six good chances of opening the score, Italy finally found the breakthough via Matteo Pessina from a smartly taken set piece by Marco Verratti.

After halftime, the most notable moment of the match was a lowlight by a Chelsea player. A bad foul from Ethan Ampadu on Federico Bernardeschi was deemed deserving of a straight red card for the midfielder, leaving the Welsh national team with only 10 men.

From that point on Wales could not do anything but protect themselves in their own half and hope for the best. Unfortunately for them Italy would not take their their foot off the gas pedal, as they kept trying to breach the Welsh barrier at the back.

Wales held strong, thanks to good saves by goalkeeper Danny Ward. The reward was reaching the knockout phase spot from the second-place finish in Group A, the second time they do so after their first ever participation in the Euros back in 2016.

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