Robert Page has warned European Championship rivals to never “underestimate the character of a Welshman” after 10-man Wales progressed to the last 16 despite losing against Italy.
Wales will play the runners-up in Group B – likely to be one of Russia, Finland or Denmark – in Amsterdam on Saturday and Page admitted his players have had to dig deep to overcome the nightmarish logistics of a transcontinental tournament.
“It’s not been easy because we’ve had to go to Baku [to play Switzerland and Turkey], travel to Italy and now we’re 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 is an absolute nightmare. And then you throw Covid into the mix as well. I’m really proud of the group and I’m looking forward to the last 16. It’s phenomenal, the character we have in the changing room. Don’t underestimate the character of a Welshman.”
Wales had Ethan Ampadu sent off 10 minutes into the second half but Page nevertheless introduced the striker Kieffer Moore, one of three players a booking away from suspension, to ease the relentless Italy pressure. “I went with my heart for the last half an hour,” Page said.
“Otherwise we would have been camped on the edge of our box. Kieffer did a great job when he came on. I said to Kieffer: ‘Go on, but do not lift your arm.’ Watching him jump was hysterical. My heart overruled my head; we needed to get up the pitch.”
A neat first-half finish by Matteo Pessina was the difference in Rome as Italy finished top of Group A to tee up a last-16 date at Wembley against the runners-up of Group C – either Ukraine or Austria – on Saturday. Italy are yet to concede a goal at Euro 2020 and an 11th successive victory also equalled a record 30-game unbeaten streak that dates back to the 1930s.
“We will be a test for whichever team we come up against in the last 16,” said the Italy manager, Roberto Mancini. “It’s nice for us to go to Wembley; it’s a wonderful arena and it will mark the start of a whole new competition. Our hope is for us to be back at Wembley at the very end [for the final].”
Source: The Guardian