Who can stop the Italians?

Roberto Mancini instructs his players in Rome
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Roberto Mancini instructs his players in Rome

Gary Neville reflected on his own hesitancy at half-time to call Switzerland a “nice” team in his role as an ITV pundit, but what became increasingly apparent was that he should have shown more courage in his perception.

They arrived on a good run, unbeaten in eight stretching back to last November, but still without the belief they could win a big game.

Italy were never in trouble. Manuel Locatelli fired them into the knockout phase at Euro 2020 after the most routine 3-0 win you are ever likely to see.

Italy fans celebrate their convincing win over the Swiss
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Italy fans celebrate their convincing win

The Sassuolo midfielder grabbed a classy double before Ciro Immobile wrapped up a comfortable victory as Italy became the first team to book a last-16 spot. The biggest concern for Roberto Mancini’s side is they may arrive in the knockout stages having not been tested.

Now unbeaten in 29 games in all competitions since a UEFA Nations League defeat against Portugal in 2018, Mancini will be at pains to make sure they become the first team since Germany in Euro 2012 to record three group-stage wins.

Only once in their history have they gone on a longer run without defeat (30 games between November 1935 to July 1939). They can match that run when Wales visit Rome on Sunday, but there is a growing belief that a first European Championship triumph since 1968 is within their grasp.
Ben Grounds

Wales get fans dreaming of 2016 repeat

Wales are channelling the spirit of 2016
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Wales are channelling the spirit of 2016

Robert Page had been perhaps kinder than he might have been about Wales’ Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland given the result they achieved was a good one, despite a patchy performance.

But he had no reason to gloss over anything after an excellent 2-0 win over Turkey which would have been by more goals had Aaron Ramsey or Gareth Bale buried a hatful of chances they both created and missed on Tuesday evening.

Unsurprisingly it is coming to pass that those two will be crucial in their success at this competition and from their opening two games, it looks as though they have done enough to help them into the last 16.

It would take a very cruel series of events for Sunday’s game in Italy to have any bearing on whether Wales qualify, but the manner of their win over Turkey – reminiscent of a similar group stage victory over Russia five years ago – means Page, his team and their fans can wonder whether a repeat performance might just be a possibility.

Rob Page has done everything that's been asked of him
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Rob Page has done everything asked of him

Wales might not be able to pull another Belgium result out of the hat – although finishing third would potentially give them the opportunity to do so – but should they finish second in Group A, it is likely one of Russia or Finland awaits them in the last-16, two eminently beatable teams.

“I thought I showed good character to help the team keep going,” Bale told the BBC after he bounced back from missing a second-half penalty to set up Connor Roberts’ last-minute second goal.

If he and his team-mates keep up that level of personality, there’s every chance there may be another famous summer on the cards across the River Severn.
Ron Walker