Wales round off their Euro 2020 group stage with a trip to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to take on a flawless Italy side that has already qualified for the ‘Last 16’, and they’ll be looking to guarantee their own place in the knockout stages by avoiding defeat.
Taking points from this Italy side is no formality though, as they have been virtually flawless in their two matches so far.
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Back-to-back 3-0 victories, over Switzerland and Turkey, meant Roberto Mancini’s side were the first to book themselves a place in the next stage of the tournament, and they’ve been good value for it too.
Six goals scored, zero goals conceded, 29 shots, 11 shots on target, zero cards, and, most importantly, six points on the board. You can’t ask for more than that.
The Azzurri have been at their scintillating best in Rome, and are already well on their way to atoning for the embarrassment of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. They’re now unbeaten in 29 matches, and have won each of their last 10 fixtures in all competitions without conceding a single goal.
That’ll make things even more difficult for a Wales side who don’t score goals in abundance. Wednesday’s win over Turkey, complete with a 95th minute goal from Connor Roberts, was only the second time Wales have scored more than once in a game since November 2019.
The other, a 3-1 win over a Finland side that played with 10 men for 75 minutes, was an outlier among the other 13 games they’ve played in that time – a run which saw them average 0.79 goals per game.
The Man in the Middle
Taking control of this deciding game is Romanian official Ovidiu Hategan, who showed the only red card of the competition so far to Poland’s Grzegorz Krychowiak in Matchday One.
This season has seen him tone down his approach with 127 bookings in 35 games (just 3.63 per game), compared to 4.47 per game in 2019/20 and 4.58 in 2018/19.
Hategan also has history with Wales, having sent off the aforementioned Roberts in a World Cup Qualifier less than three months ago.
Roberto Mancini has hinted that there will be changes for his side in this one, so it’s worth waiting until lineups are announced before backing anything. That being said, we’ll look to get on the right side of his selection here.
First up, I’m taking Lorenzo Insigne Over 2.5 Shots and Italy Over 0 Goals, and Under 5 Goals For Both Teams Combined in a 6/5 BetBuilder with bet365.
The latter two are fairly self explanatory, but it’s Insigne’s shot line that caught my eye.
If he starts, the Napoli forward should go close to this number. Insigne has taken seven shots in two games so far, and has averaged 3.8 shots per game across competitive fixtures for Italy before this tournament.
Elsewhere, an area I think the Azzurri can exploit against Wales is set-pieces – particularly with their centre-backs, who have managed four shots and a disallowed goal already in two games.
The Dragons allowed centre-backs to take six shots against them in their opening two group games; with Switzerland’s Fabian Schar and Turkey duo Caglar Soyuncu and Kaan Ayhan each managing a shot on target.
It’s why I like Francesco Acerbi 1+ Shot at 6/5, and 1+ Shot On Target at 5/1. The Lazio man should be deputising for the injured Giorgio Chiellini, and has taken eight shots in his last eight competitive starts for his National side.
I’d also recommend taking on the double of Acerbi and Leonardo Bonucci, and the defensive duo to have one shot each is 19/5.
My final play of this game, and potentially my favourite if the stars align, is Andrea Belotti Over 3.5 Combined Fouls Conceded & Won at 11/10. This, of course, relies on him starting (so wait for line-ups) but if Mancini opts to rest Ciro Immobile we could be in business.
Belotti is a foul magnet. In Serie A last season he committed 68 fouls, and was on the receiving end of 144, in just 33 starts. That’s 6.42 fouls per game.
In the six competitive starts he made for his National side since November 2019, he was fouled 18 times and gave away 14 (5.33 per game).
Lorenzo Insigne Over 2.5 Shots and Italy Over 0 Goals, and Under 5 Goals For Both Teams Combined – 6/5
Francesco Acerbi 1+ Shot – 6/5
Francesco Acerbi 1+ Shot On Target – 5/1
Andrea Belotti Over 3.5 Combined Fouls Conceded & Won – 11/10