Exciting final showdown for Group A leaders
With Group A all but tied up for Roberto Mancini’s Italy they welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Back to back 3-0 victories have guaranteed qualification for the Italians but they need at least a draw here to claim top spot. Rob Page’s side looked out of sorts and were quite fortunate to gain a point against Switzerland in their opening match but a performance for the ages earned them a 2-0 win over many people’s dark horses, Turkey, giving them a great chance at reaching the knockout stages. Despite Gareth Bale’s glaring penalty miss the Welsh created ample chances to get a comfortable victory but had to wait until deep in additional time to relax, as Swansea City’s Connor Roberts popped up with the second. Both managers may look to rest and rotate with bigger matches on the horizon but an outside chance at topping the group will spur on the underdogs.
This one could look like two nations without much to play for, or it could become fiery with a huge opportunity for the Italian second string to show their gaffer what they can offer. Federico Chiesa is one to watch, he has had an excellent debut season with Juventus and was unlucky to start the opening two games but Domenico Berardi has justified his selection in place of him. Alongside the returning from injury Marco Verratti who may get some minutes in this fixture, even with qualification secured there will be no let up.
It is a convenient match for Wales now they are all but through, Page can see how his men get on against high quality opposition with it unlikely to have any negative implications. Great preparation for the last 16, I fully expect them to be hard to beat and fight for every ball. Joe Rodon and Chris Mepham are building a strong partnership at the centre of defence with the warrior Ben Davies playing a significant role at left back. David Brooks and impact sub Harry Wilson may also get a chance to express themselves from the fringes, of course with one eye on the match between Turkey and Switzerland.
The Azzurri have been totally ruthless so far and will be intent on finishing with nine points but I feel there is value in using the Asian Handicap to get Wales onside. You can guarantee they will show a lot of heart and endeavour, Mancini may also take the decision to rest players especially if they can take the lead early on.