Wales qualify for knockout stages of Euro 2020 despite loss to Italy in Rome

  • Gareth Bale speaks to ITV Sport as Wales seal qualification to the knockout stages

Wales have qualified for the knockout stages of Euro 2020 despite losing to Italy in Rome on Sunday afternoon.

A marginally superior goal difference than that of Switzerland means that Robert Page's side have progressed to the next stage of the competition.

It was widely anticipated as a huge challenge for Wales, with Italy establishing themselves as early tournament favourites with their blistering form in the competition's opening two matches.

The Azzurri were relentless over the course of the contest but Wales - with the exception of Italy's sole strike from a set piece in the first half - were able to keep Italy out, protect their goal difference and seal their progression from Group A.

Thirteen and a half thousand fans were allowed in to Rome's Stadio Olimpico to see the sides' final match in Group A.

It appeared to be a fairly even contest in the opening exchanges, with Italy knocking the ball around comfortably but unable to create any clear cut chances.

However, the "home" side soon began to find their rhythm and show their menace going forward, Bellotti almost getting on the end of a wonderfully whipped ball into the area.

Wales appeared to be coping well with the Azzurri pressure for the most part and even looked to be making their own ventures forward, stringing together passes with some neat interplay between Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey down the left hand side.

Italy's Matteo Pessina angles a low spinning effort beyond the reach of Danny Ward Credit: PA Images

Defender Chris Gunter was unlucky to send a bullet header at the near post wide of the target from a corner.

Although that chance marked Wales' only genuine opportunity at causing Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma any serious work in the first half.

The influence of Marco Verratti, Italy's experienced midfield technician, grew as the first half developed and it soon proved to be decisive.

Shielding the ball from the onrushing Joe Allen and drawing a foul, it was then Verratti's low and clever delivery from the resulting free kick that allowed Matteo Pessina to angle an effort into the far corner beyond the reach of Danny Ward.

Italy emerged for the second half looking every bit as dangerous as they had ended the first, Bernardeschi smacking the post with a free kick from 25 yards out.

Soon after Aaron Ramsey somehow found himself through on goal after a rare Italian defensive lapse let him run through at Donnarumma, although Italy were swift to snuff out the danger.

Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu is sent off following a late challenge on Bernardeschi Credit: PA Images

And then came the moment that made the scale of the challenge near-insurmountable for Robert Page's side.

Midfielder Ethan Ampadu was shown red for a late challenge on Bernardeschi, the referee swift with his dismissal and a subsequent VAR check confirming his decision.

Page was quick to shuffle his pack, Kieffer Moore being introduced in place of Joe Morrell.

Italy continued to pressurise and probe and, with a man advantage, looked to capitalise.

A quick move down the right hand side put Bellotti in a promising position who cut the ball back for a close range shot but Danny Ward was equal to the effort.

Daniel James, quiet for much of the match, was later replaced by Harry Wilson.

Just minutes after came Wales' best chance of the game, Joe Rodon's headed knock-on landing at Gareth Bale's feet in the penalty area - on his normally lethal left side - but the captain blazed his effort high over the crossbar.

Italy, unsatisfied with the single goal, pushed and attacked and kept the Welsh defence occupied late into the second half.

However, Wales' defence was resolute and held firm; keeping the scoreline narrow and sealing their passage through to the latter stages of Euro 2020.