By Andy Jones.
Group A of the 2020 European Championship came to a close on Sunday evening with Italy and Wales taking first and second respectively.
This leaves Switzerland with a nervy wait to see if they qualify as one of the best-placed third-place teams.
The Swiss took an early lead in Baku against Turkey through Haris Seferovic to put pressure on the Welsh who faced off against Italy in Rome.
In order to overtake Wales, Switzerland needed to win, Wales to lose, and a five-goal swing in goal difference.
Despite running out 3-1 winners in Azerbaijan it wasn’t enough to claim second spot and Wales progressed after succumbing to a 1-0 defeat in the Stadio Olimpico.
A resilient performance from the Welsh was epitomised by goalkeeper Danny Ward who put in another stellar performance, making several saves throughout the match.
The Leicester City man was unable to keep out Matteo Pessina, though, as the Italy midfielder connected with a Marco Veratti freekick and put his side ahead just before half-time.
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Italy boss Roberto Mancini rested several of his stars including Lazio striker Ciro Immobile and the impressive Manuel Locatelli, who had helped himself to a brace against the Swiss, but Veratti — who was returning from injury — ran the show in midfield for the Azzurri.
An impressive display from the PSG midfielder, who seemed to be everywhere on the pitch, was capped off with an assist for the only goal of the game but his performance will leave Mancini with a tough decision going into the round of 16.
Wales were clearly second best on the day after switching to a 3-4-3 formation despite playing with a back four in the previous two fixtures as the Italians dominated the game.
Things got tougher for the Welsh as Ethan Ampadu was sent off on 55 minutes for standing on Federico Bernardeschi’s foot. A yellow may have been expected but a red card felt harsh.
Hopes of holding on against the Italians seemed to be fading but Robert Page’s men were able to hang on avoid conceding further goals.
With Switzerland unable to add any more goals of their own in Baku, it was Wales who claimed second spot as the final whistles blew in Italy and Azerbaijan.
A trip to Amsterdam awaits Wales on Saturday, where they will likely face Kevin de Bruyne’s Belgium who are currently top of Group B. The Red Devils need just a point from their clash with Finland to secure top spot.
Regardless of who the Welsh face, it is yet another impressive display at a European Championships and fans will be hoping they can go one better than 2016 and reach the final now they have navigated a tough group.
As for Italy, they will play the runners up of Group C at Wembley. One of the Netherlands, Ukraine or Austria will travel to London to take on the team who are now being hotly tipped as favourites for the competition.