Manuel Locatelli strikes twice as Italy cruise into round of 16 with win over Switzerland
Bale chips in pair of assists in Wales' 3-0 win over Turkey; Russia edges Finaland 1-0
The wingers sprint forward like Ferraris. The midfielders are just as capable at scoring as the forwards. And the reserves look like starters.
A new-look Italy is impressing with its offensive flair at the European Championship.
Midfielder Manuel Locatelli scored two goals Wednesday and the Azzurri beat Switzerland 3-0 to become the first team to reach the last 16 at Euro 2020, and they did it with a game to spare.
As usual — and perhaps the only characteristic carried on from Italy teams of the past — the defence was impenetrable.
It's quite a turnaround for a team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Italy extended its unbeaten streak to 29 matches — one shy of the team record — and kept its 10th clean sheet in that run.
Locatelli's first goal came following a textbook exchange with Sassuolo teammate Domenico Berardi midway through the first half. His second came with a long, low shot shortly after the break that left Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer immobile.
🇮🇹 🌟 A classy display from two-goal Star of the Match Manuel Locatelli 👏👏👏<a href="https://twitter.com/Heineken?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Heineken</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EUROSOTM?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EUROSOTM</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EURO2020?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EURO2020</a> <a href="https://t.co/AjDE6eeis5">pic.twitter.com/AjDE6eeis5</a>—@EURO2020
Ciro Immobile added the third with another long-range effort in the 89th for his second score of the tournament.
Giorgio Chiellini had a goal waved off by video review early in the match because of a handball. Then the Italy captain exited with an apparent left thigh injury.
Italy leads Group A with a six points after overwhelming Turkey 3-0 in the tournament opener. Wales is next with four points earlier after beating Turkey 2-0 in Baku.
Switzerland has one point and Turkey has zero.
Locatelli's first goal was an offensive masterclass.
He started it off with a long pass from within Italy's half to Berardi streaking down the right flank. Berardi then cut inside and crossed back to the onrushing Locatelli, who tapped in from close range.
And to think that Locatelli only gained his starting spot because of an injury to the more experienced Marco Verratti, who is expected back for the next game against Wales.
🇮🇹 Italy become the first team to reach the Round of 16. Bravo, <a href="https://twitter.com/azzurri?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@azzurri</a> 👏👏👏<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EURO2020?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EURO2020</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ITA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ITA</a>—@EURO2020
At age 23, Locatelli became the tournament's youngest scorer so far.
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma preserved the shutout with a double save on Steven Zuber late in the second half.
The Azzurri have now scored 30 unanswered goals over their last 10 matches.
In the final group games, Italy remains in Rome to face Wales while Switzerland returns to Baku to face Turkey.
Wales top Turkey, edge closer to round of 16
Gareth Bale set up both goals and missed a penalty in Wales' 2-0 victory over Turkey on Wednesday at the European Championship.
The win moved the Welsh closer to a place in the last 16 with four points in Group A. Turkey has zero points after losing both of its matches.
Bale had chance to score one himself in the 61st minute but he sent his penalty kick over the bar after being tripped by Zeki Celik on the edge of the area.
The Wales captain hasn't scored for his country in 13 games. His last goal came against Croatia in Euro 2020 qualifying in October 2019.
Ramsey had more chances to score before finally giving his team the lead, including scooping the ball over the bar in the 24th when one-on-one with Cakir.
Turkey captain Burak Yilmaz had five shots but couldn't convert any of them, most notably when he missed an excellent chance early in the second half. He volleyed over the bar from close range when a corner was headed on to him.
Turkey had strong support from traveling fans and many locals in close ally Azerbaijan. The presidents of both Turkey and Azerbaijan were in attendance.
Miranchuk gives Russia something to smile about
With a slick one-two and a beautiful curling shot, Aleksei Miranchuk finally gave Russia something to smile about at the European Championship.
The pessimism that followed the Russians' 3-0 loss to Belgium in their opening Group B game was replaced by loud cheers and jubilant chants of "ROSS-I-YA" at the final whistle at Saint Petersburg Stadium.
A loss would have left Russia with an extremely difficult task to qualify for the knockout stage, given its last match is a trip to Denmark on Monday.
Now Russia is tied on points with the Finns, who missed the chance to reach the last 16 with a game to spare with a second straight victory in their first major soccer tournament. Their first victory was 1-0 over Denmark in a match marked by Christian Eriksen's collapse.
It came as no surprise that Artem Dzyuba was involved in Miranchuk's superbly taken goal, which wasn't in keeping with the overall standard of a game.
The big centre forward was the focal point of all Russia's attacks, though this one involved him using good footwork instead of his renowned aerial prowess.
Miranchuk collected the ball on the edge of the area and slipped a short ball forward to Dzyuba, who laid it off deftly back to the playmaker. Miranchuk took one touch to cut inside Finland defender Daniel O'Shaughnessy and, with barely any back-lift, floated his shot beyond goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and into the top corner.
Finland coach Markku Kanerva had expressed his concern ahead of the game that his players might still be traumatized by the incident involving Eriksen on Saturday.
Yet Finland, cheered on by about 4,000 fans who made the 200-kilometer journey from the Finnish border to St. Petersburg, was the better team in the early stages and had a headed goal by Joel Pohjanpalo ruled out by video review in the third minute.
Russia was humiliated at times by Belgium in its opening group game but found Finland's midfield — missing captain Tim Sparv — much easier to dominate, with Miranchuk and Aleksandr Golovin standing out.
Russian defender hospitalized after suspected spinal injury
Russia defender Mario Fernandes was cleared of any damage to his vertebra after being taken to the hospital following a fall .
The Brazilian-born right back was carried off on a stretcher in the 26th minute after a lengthy period of treatment on the field. He had jumped for a header and was unable to break his fall as he landed on his back.
Fernandes was wearing a yellow support device on his head and neck as he was carried off the field.
The Russian team said Fernandes was free to fly with the team to Moscow and will be kept under observation by medical staff ahead of the final group match against Denmark on Monday.
It will come as a relief for Russia, which has been hit by personnel problems before and during the tournament.
Veteran left back Yuri Zhirkov was ruled out of the rest of the tournament on Tuesday after injuring his thigh in the opening 3-0 loss to Belgium on Saturday, defender Fyodor Kudryashov has yet to play after he was injured in a warmup for a pre-tournament friendly, and winger Andrey Mostovoy was replaced in the squad last week after testing positive for the coronavirus.