Bale and Locatelli lift Wales and Italy in Euro 2020

Gareth Bale lifts Wales at Euro 2020
Gareth Bale lifts Wales at Euro 2020

Today, Welshman Gareth Bale skied a penalty shot in Wales’s UEFA Euro 2020 Group A match against Turkey at Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, but made up for it with assists on Aaron Ramsey’s 42nd-minute goal and Connor Roberts’ 90”+5 goal to give his side a 2-0 win.

The Welsh put in the performance they needed against a Turkish side that seemed in such disarray that ESPN half-time show pundit, Julie Foudy, was able to show still shots off the television video which captured the Crescent-Stars defensively out of position in every single Welsh advance that culminated in a goal-scoring chance. Something is simply not right with this Turkish team which bears no resemblance to the one which recently played the Nations League and World Cup 2022 qualifiers so efficiently.

Italy 3-0 Switzerland

Hosts Italy defeated Switzerland 3-0 at Stadio Olimpico in Rome with an unexpected brace from Manuel Locatelli (26th and 52nd) and a cherry-on-top score from Ciro Immobile (89th) whose shooting compass had been a few degrees off all game. The Swiss seemed out of ideas and caught out of place in all three goals with the scorers either coming in for a close-range tap-in or having eons to line up shots from relatively close range if outside the box.

The victory leaves Italy as the first six-point and six-goal contender moving on to the next phase of the competition. What must be said is they are succeeding. First, yes, they did win with ease and by large enough scores to both progress and build up steam and confidence for the next round. Second, they present as a fast, resilient offensive side that is nevertheless solid defensively. Third, they have quite a bench to draw from when the likes of Marco Verratti and Federico Chiesa, to pick two with great seasons coming into the Euro, are mostly second thoughts. So, one gets the feeling Roberto Mancini could use quite a different starting lineup in the next stage of the competition and not lose an iota of momentum.

But something about their two wins seems off. First, it was against teams who were truly not at the Azzurri’s level. Second, they are playing at home, a fortunate pandemic-driven break. Third, both Turkey and Switzerland seem off and Wales seems the better second team of the group. If Group A holds to form Italy will be moving on in first place to play a lesser team once again in the Group of 16. So, it will only be in the Quarterfinals that Italy meets a team at their level or better. It would seem the Azzurri have two more winnable games before they must produce outside their current comfort zone, and so far, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Croatia, England, Slovakia, and the Netherlands, have done well enough and against tougher competition, to be more convincing contenders.

Time will tell if the Mancini experiment will succeed, and certainly, the opening salvo has been brilliant.

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