Wales’ midfielder Aaron Ramsey celebrates after scoring his opening goal next to Turkey’s goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A football match between Turkey and Wales at the Olympic Stadium in Baku on June 16, 2021. (Photo by VALENTYN OGIRENKO / POOL / AFP)
Wales took a big step towards the Euro 2020 knockout phase on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over Turkey in Baku, before rejuvenated Italy look to seal their place in the last 16 with victory against Switzerland.
After drawing 1-1 with the Swiss in their opening Group A game, Wales now have four points from two matches after goals from Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts saw off a disappointing Turkey.
“You’d like to think so, but we’ll have to wait and see,” said Wales captain Gareth Bale when asked if his team had done enough to get through.
“If you’d offered us four points at the start we would’ve bitten your hand off.”
Senol Gunes’ side, roared on by the majority of the crowd in Azerbaijan, have lost both of their games without scoring and face a mountain to climb if they are to qualify.
Wales’ coach Robert Page celebrates his team’s victory at the end of the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A football match between Turkey and Wales at the Olympic Stadium in Baku on June 16, 2021. (Photo by VALENTYN OGIRENKO / POOL / AFP)
Wales, semi-finalists five years ago, should have won more convincingly, but wasted several chances including a second-half penalty which was blazed over by Bale.
Up to 4,000 Turkish fans travelled for the game, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Wales immediately were on the front foot and Ramsey wasted two excellent chances early on.
He made no mistake three minutes before the break, though, chesting down Bale’s pass and slotting home.
Bale, whose future at Real Madrid is uncertain, won a penalty just after the hour mark but was uncharacteristically wayward from the spot.
Merih Demiral, left on the bench after his own goal in Turkey’s 3-0 loss to Italy last week, almost made amends as a substitute in the 87th minute but was denied by an excellent save from Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward.
Robert Page’s Wales grabbed the second goal their performance deserved in stoppage time, as Bale danced through and teed up Roberts to sweep into the net.
– Italy bid to book last-16 spot –
Roberto Mancini’s Italy were impressive in their first outing and, with home advantage in Rome, will be confident of securing qualification for the knockout phase.
The 1968 European champions, on a 28-match unbeaten run, have a rich international pedigree and are desperate to atone for the humiliation of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
“The strength of this Italy? It’s the group,” said forward Lorenzo Insigne.
“The coach has created a great group. No one is assured of a place.
“Whoever plays knows what we have to do, to put ourselves at the service of each other.”
In the first match of the day, Russia defeated neighbours Finland 1-0 in Saint Petersburg courtesy of Aleksei Miranchuk’s goal just before half-time to pick up their first points in Group B.
It blows open the section after Russia lost 3-0 to Belgium in their opening game at the weekend. Finland had beaten Denmark 1-0 in Copenhagen on Saturday, a game completely overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.
Wales supporters celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A football match between Turkey and Wales at the Olympic Stadium in Baku on June 16, 2021. (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU / POOL / AFP)
– Germany under pressure –
On Tuesday, a Mats Hummels own goal proved enough for 2018 World Cup winners France to beat Germany 1-0 in a blockbuster Group F match in Munich on Tuesday.
France deserved the win, with both Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema having second-half goals disallowed for offside calls while Adrien Rabiot also hit the post for Les Bleus.
“It’s our first match, but this is a game that could have been a semi-final or a final and to take these three points in a group like this was important,” France coach Didier Deschamps told broadcaster M6.
Germany’s opening defeat in the “Group of Death” turns up the pressure on coach Joachim Loew, who is taking charge of a tournament for the last time.
“It’s up to us to crank things up in the next two or three days,” said Loew. “We have to look to improve, because we need a goal or two.”
Germany’s next game is against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Euro 2016 winners, who got off to the perfect start by beating Hungary 3-0 in Budapest.
Ronaldo marked the occasion by netting his 10th and 11th European Championship goals, surpassing the record of nine he shared with France legend Michel Platini.
The 36-year-old Juventus forward has now scored in five different European Championship finals and has 106 goals for his country, leaving him just three away from matching Iranian Ali Daei’s all-time international scoring record of 109.