Wales fans in ‘dreamland’ after Bale and Ramsey star in Baku
With one foot in the Euro 2020 knockouts it’s Italy up next for Robert Page’s side
Wales are within touching distance of the Euro 2020 last-16 after a thrilling victory over Turkey in Baku.
The 2-0 win means Robert Page’s side now have four points from two matches and only need a draw against Italy on Sunday to seal qualification. A win over the Azzurri in Rome would secure top spot in group A.
“I’m the luckiest Welshman,” said interim manager Page. “I’m so proud to be a part of this team. I’ve got a great coaching staff behind me too and they deserve a lot of credit.
“We’ve got a lot of players not playing domestic football week in, week out. What is it? Is it the crest on their chest that makes them raise their game? It must be. It’s playing for Wales. It’s powerful and everybody would walk on broken glass to get into this squad. Credit goes to the players.”
‘Can it happen again?’
After reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, where they lost to eventual champions Portugal, WalesOnline’s Paul Abbandonato posed the question: “It can’t happen again, can it?” With world-class players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in their team, “they have got us dreaming once more”, he said.
The duo played leading roles during a golden summer in 2016 and Wales’s stars “sparkled once more under the night skies of Euro 2020’s eastern outpost”, says Dafydd Pritchard of BBC Sport Wales. Despite missing a penalty, Bale set up both goals - the opener for Ramsey and the late second for Connor Roberts.
“Without his two assists we don’t win that game, it’s as simple as that,” Page said of Bale’s performance. “He showed an enormous amount of courage to react in a positive way from the penalty miss, and that speaks a lot about him as a man. It’s not just about scoring goals, it’s about being a team player and setting goals up. He’s certainly done that.”
Bale believes his longstanding relationship with Ramsey is key to their impressive link-up play, The Guardian reports. “It’s been there for many years,” said the 31-year-old. “We’ve done it for a while now. We always play for the shirt, we work hard as a team and it was great for him to get us off to a good start. Hopefully we can keep playing well for the remainder of the tournament.”
This year’s Euros will see the top two teams from each group qualify automatically for the round of 16, plus the four best third-placed teams. Wales are guaranteed to finish third or above, but even a defeat to Italy could well be enough for second place, the BBC reports. Switzerland must beat Turkey and overhaul a five-goal deficit on Wales.
The group A winners will head to Wembley for the last-16 tie on Saturday 26 June and face the runners-up from group C, which contains Austria, the Netherlands, Ukraine and North Macedonia.
A second-placed finish in group A would mean taking on the group B winners in Amsterdam on 26 June. Potential opponents include Belgium, Russia, Finland and Denmark.
But before that the focus for Wales is on Italy and the final game in group A. For Ramsey the clash in Rome is one he is looking forward to. The 30-year-old plays his club football for Italian side Juventus and will go up against some familiar faces on Sunday. “I’ve got a few [Juventus] team-mates playing for Italy so it will be nice for me out there, but I’m representing my country now and we will do everything to win that game,” he said.
Euro 2020 group A: fixtures and results
Friday 11 June
- Turkey 0 Italy 3
Saturday 12 June
- Wales 1 Switzerland 1
Wednesday 16 June
- Turkey 0 Wales 2
- Italy 3 Switzerland 0
Sunday 20 June
- Italy vs. Wales (5pm, Rome; ITV)
- Switzerland vs. Turkey (5pm, Baku; ITV4)