So here we are. Wales are in the position we all hoped they would be. Qualification is in our hands (and probably already secured) but as Robert Page says we don’t want to limp over the line, we want to do it in style. And where better to achieve that then in Italy. When in Rome and all that…
Let’s be fair here. The Italians have been the class act of the opening week and a bit of the tournament. Only they, Belgium and the Netherlands won their opening two games. Italy did it by two three goal margins which could easily have been more and they will know that a point will see them heading towards London for the last 16.
Wales on the other hand have four points from six which is pretty much what Robert Page would have wanted from the two games (OK, we know six would have been nice!) and it is expected that four points will be enough to secure a third placed qualification but the Welsh boss has his sights set on the runners up spot in the group as a minimum and has promised a Welsh display to be proud of once again this evening in Rome.
That said he is also mindful of the three players in his squad that are on yellow cards and who would know that a booking would keep them out of the last 16 tie, all factors he is thinking about for his team selection
“That’s the difficulty. We’ve been here before in the semi-finals in 2016 and missed influential players and it’s affected them until today,” said the Wales interim boss.
“Of course that’s going to be part of the thought process but, more importantly, we’re playing against a very good Italian side.
“We have to take that into consideration. A team will be selected that we believe can win the game.”
Wales go into the game with the Italians on the back of a 29 match unbeaten run, more than 900 minutes since they last scored a goal and having won 7 of the 9 meetings between the two nations. Boss Manuel Pellegrini therefore was understandably in confident mood although it was a light hearted press conference when he was asked if Wales reminded him of anyone he had faced during his time in England with Manchester City.
“Stoke was a tricky place to go to.
“Stoke had a very tough style of play, they were a very tough nut to crack.
“But Wales have players like Allen, Bale and James – skilful, quality players so it will be a difficult match from a physical perspective. Wales are not only technical, but powerful on the physical side.”
When Bale was asked about the comparison, he said: “I never knew Stoke were that good” with a huge grin on his face!
We should also remember at this stage that Wales have lost just 1 of their last 15 competitive games so all signs are set for an entertaining encounter in Rome and the Red Wall will hopefully be celebrating fully again come 7pm this evening.