The ‘Azzurra’ were far superior and beat Switzerland 3-0 to add their second victory in as many games in the current edition of the European Championship. Those led by Roberto Mancini secured their place among the tournament’s top 16 teams. In addition, Wales and Russia have won and remain in the race for qualification.
If on paper it was not among the favorites of connoisseurs for this European Championship, Italy is starting to make a name for itself. By dint of great performances and several strong points at the individual level, the ‘Azzurra’ became the first to qualify for the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
Historically, the Alpine team has done better reaching major tournaments in silence, away from the scrutiny of experts. Recent frustrations – including not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia – had put Italy in a lesser role, compared to other powerhouse teams in Europe today.
However, in two games, the formation of Roberto Mancini showed strong arguments for hope. Far from the traditional ‘catenaccio’ with which the Italian national team is often associated -sometimes unfairly-, this team showed an attractive game, with the movement of the ball as key.
Of course, the style promoted by Mancini has not renounced the defensive aspect either, an area in which Italy retains its usual solidity… The conclusion of this formula? The ‘Azzurra’ has 10 consecutive victories and without conceding goals.
At the Olympic Stadium in Rome, for the second date of Group A of the European Championship, Italy released their new image with a solid 3-0 victory against the always uneasy Switzerland, who saw their plans quickly disarmed because of the superiority of his rival.
This new Italy is supported by a common operation that empowers its actors. The structure goes from the arch defended by Gianluigi Donnarumma; a central defense known by heart with the Leonardo Bonucci-Giorgio Chiellini duo; a “brain” in the midfield with Jorginho, a key player for Chelsea, champion of the last Champions League; two unbalanced wingers with Domenico Berardi and Leonardo Spinazzola; and a goalscorer like Ciro Immobile, a great contribution to the team even if he sometimes struggles to convert with the national team.
With their arguments, the ‘Azzurra’ dismantled the initial idea of Switzerland, which had tried to impose itself at the start. Ownership of the ball, Italy eventually silenced the Swiss team and disrupted Yann Sommer’s goal from the start.
Chiellini even converted 19 minutes into the game, but his cry was drowned out after VAR called it off for a hand-on-play. And although the captain retired with injury minutes later, the Italy remained firm and found the deserved goal after 26 minutes, after an excellent triangulation between Berardi and Manuel Locatelli, which defined the entrance in the center of the box.
Italy forgave a few times in the first half, but started to define the fight early in the add-on. In the 52nd minute, Locatelli controls at the door of the area and unleashes an impossible left shot for Sommer.
That second goal left Switzerland unanswered, who could have fallen for an even bigger result. Italy lacked precision in the final meters and only found the game’s third and final goal a minute from time, thanks to a missile from outside the box from Immobile.
Six points, six goals for, none against. This is the outcome of Italy’s first two presentations in Group A, which will end with another good test against Wales next Sunday, June 20.
Wales win over blurry Turkey and are one shot away from the knockout stages
In the other Group A duel, Wales secured their first victory in the current edition of the European Championship. They made it quite 2-0 against Turkey, a team that entered the tournament as one of the possible revelations, but are now closer to elimination.
The Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, rotated almost entirely in favor of Turkey. The Turkish supporters who moved to the neighboring country were joined by local supporters, who displayed flags of both countries, a sign of the strong bond between the two peoples. However, those led by Şenol Güneş did not take advantage of this favorable atmosphere and put in another unconvincing performance.
Wales, led by Gareth Bale, proved more dangerous in the first half, taking advantage of cracks in the Turkish backline, who tried to drop forward but suffered from their own inattention. This is how Aaron Ramsey took the opportunity to come face to face with goalkeeper Uğurcan Çakir three times: the goalkeeper won in the first, the midfielder missed in the second, but the goal is came on the third occasion, when the Juventus man controlled a nice long pass from Bale with his chest and defined with his right leg in the 42nd minute.
Turkey came out in the second half with changes that tried to give the team a more attacking feel but ended up throwing them off balance, with little recovery in midfield. Without being a barrage, Wales created situations and could have settled the game with a penalty that Bale sent into the clouds in the 61st minute.
Without ideas, Turkey charged into Danny Ward’s box, who responded to the few dangerous options generated by the rival. And when the game was dying, Bale put up a great play against the baseline and allowed Connor Roberts, who defined to condemn the 2-0.
With 4 points, Wales have a foot and a half in the round of 16, especially as the four best thirds qualify for this instance. Turkey, for their part, will play their last card against Switzerland (who have one point) on Sunday 20 June.
Russia bounce back from failed start, beat Finland by minimum
After suffering a blow on their debut against Belgium (0-3), Russia earned their first points in Group B of the European Championship. Even if he didn’t do it in a comfortable way: it was a tight 1-0 against Finland, who deserved to take something else.
In front of 24,000 spectators at St. Petersburg’s Krestovski Stadium, those led by Stanislav Cherchesov overcame the initial scare of a goal disallowed by Joel Pohjanpalo due to late offside and besieged the Finnish goal.
The game had a changing evolution: Russia went from clear scoring chances to suffering behind their advanced defence. On top of that, the hosts suffered the sensitive loss of Mario Fernandes, who was substituted after 26 minutes, after falling on his back. The historic Brazilian-Russian winger was taken to hospital, where it was revealed that he didn’t suffer from any spinal injuries.
Local relief came at the end of the first half. Aleksei Miranchuk put up a good wall with Artem Dzyuba, passed a defender and hit a left-footed shot into the corner for 1-0.
In the second half, Finland took the initiative and had a few chances to equalise. To the same extent, Russia had options to liquidate the counterattack. The momentum faded and, towards the end, Cherchesov’s men opted to slow down play and take advantage of the Finnish attack’s lack of ideas.
Just enough, Russia obtained three points which allow them to continue dreaming of qualification. A similar scenario for Finland, who made their major tournament debut with a 1-0 win over Denmark. While waiting for the remaining duel of the second date of group B, which will be played this Thursday, the two teams are already aiming for the final day of Monday June 21: Finland will have to add up against the powerful Belgium and Russia will face in a decisive duel with Denmark.