Wales can secure a place in the last 16 of Euro 2020 when they face Italy in Rome later, after Germany breathed life into their campaign with a stunning 4-2 victory on Portugal, title holder, Saturday in Munich.
Saturday also saw world champion France held by Hungary in Budapest, while Spain played a second draw in as many games, this time against Poland.
Now it’s the final round of the group matches and Wales – Euro 2016 semi-finalists – are set to return to the knockout stage.
However, they face an Italian side who are home to Rome and who have arguably made the biggest impression of any team so far at the tournament.
At the dawn of the last day of Group A, Italy have already qualified with six points and Wales have four. Switzerland have a point ahead of their Baku match against Turkey, who have lost both outings so far.
Wales therefore only need one point to advance to the round of 16 in Amsterdam, although a victory at the Stadio Olimpico would see them overtake Italy in first place.
If they lose, the Swiss could still finish ahead of them by beating Turkey.
“We don’t want to limp across the line. We want to qualify in style and get to where we deserve it, ”said Welsh coach Robert Page.
Roberto Mancini’s Italy have won both matches so far by a 3-0 margin and are unbeaten in 29 games.
Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti is set to return for the Azzurri after a knee injury with Mancini expected to make changes to his squad.
“We would have done it anyway if it was a decisive game because it’s the third game in ten days, played at 6pm in 32 degrees Celsius, we need new players,” said Mancini.
# photo1 Meanwhile, Switzerland need three points against Turkey at the Caspian Sea to have any chance of claiming a place in the next round.
“The match is very important. It’s basically a knockout game, ”said coach Vladimir Petkovic.
– Ronaldo goals but Portugal beaten –
On Saturday, Germany scored a thrilling victory in Munich despite Cristiano Ronaldo closing in on the all-time international goalscoring record.
Joachim Loew’s side knew the loss to Portugal at the Allianz Arena would leave them on the verge of being knocked out of Group F already, after their failure to make it past the group stage of the 2018 World Cup.
# photo2Ronaldo put Portugal ahead, with the 36-year-old scoring a record 12th goal in the European Championship final, as well as his 107th international goal in his 177th appearance for his country.
That leaves him close to the all-time international record, set by Ali Daei who has scored 109 times for Iran.
However, Germany turned the tide before half-time as Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro both scored their own.
Robin Gosens let Kai Havertz make it 3-1 just after half-time and then lead himself into the fourth.
Jota pulled out another for Portugal, but the loss jeopardizes their chances of qualifying for the final 16, just as Germany now have the knockout stage in sight.
“We have the right to feel a little euphoria,” admitted German Thomas Mueller.
– France and Spain held –
Pre-tournament favorites France were foiled by Hungary in the intense heat and a hostile crowd of nearly 56,000 in Budapest, having to come back from behind to draw 1-1.
In the only Euro 2020 venue with no capacity restrictions due to Covid-19, Attila Fiola gave the hosts a shock lead in the first-half stoppage time.
But Antoine Griezmann, winner of the Golden Boot at Euro 2016, equalized in the 66th minute as an unconvincing France avoided a first defeat in competition since June 2019.
The Blues lead the group with four points, one ahead of Germany and Portugal, Hungary at the bottom with one point.
France therefore only needs a draw against Portugal on Wednesday to qualify, but the Portuguese run a real risk of being eliminated in the event of a defeat and Germany avoid the defeat against Hungary.
Meanwhile, Spain are still looking for a first win after being held to a 1-1 draw by Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in Sevilla.
Alvaro Morata put the 2008 and 2012 European champions ahead at La Cartuja, but Lewandowski equalized with a header and Gerard Moreno hit the post with a penalty for Spain.
Luis Enrique’s side are third in Group E with just two points and have to beat Slovakia in their last game to be sure to pass.
© 2021 AFP