Robert Page has warned European Championship rivals never to “underestimate the character of a Welshman” after Wales at 10 have advanced to the last 16 despite losing to Italy.
Wales face Group B finalists – likely Russia, Finland or Denmark – in Amsterdam on Saturday and Page admitted his players had to dig deep to overcome the nightmarish logistics of a transcontinental tournament.
“It was not easy because we had to go to Baku [to play Switzerland and Turkey], travel to Italy and now we are going to Amsterdam, ”said the interim Wales manager.
“On paper it seems like a great idea to have it all over Europe, but logistically it’s an absolute nightmare. And then you also put Covid in the mix. I’m really proud of the group and looking forward to the last 16. It’s phenomenal, the character we have in the locker room. Don’t underestimate the character of a Welshman.
Wales sent off Ethan Ampadu 10 minutes into the second half, but Page nonetheless introduced striker Kieffer Moore, one of the three players to a no-suspension warning, to ease the relentless pressure from the Italy. “I went with my heart for the last half hour,” Page said.
“Otherwise, we would have been camped on the edge of our box. Kieffer did a great job when he arrived. I said to Kieffer, “Carry on, but don’t raise your arm. Watching him jump was hysterical. My heart took precedence over my head; we had to go out into the field.
A fine first-half finish from Matteo Pessina made the difference in Rome as Italy finished first in Group A to play a round of 16 game at Wembley against Group C finalists – Ukraine or Austria – Saturday. Italy are yet to concede a goal at Euro 2020 and an 11th straight win also tied a record-breaking 30-game unbeaten streak dating back to the 1930s.
“We will be a test for any team we come up against in the round of 16,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. “It’s good for us to go to Wembley; it’s a beautiful arena and it will mark the start of a whole new competition. Our hope is that we are back at Wembley at the very end [for the final]. «