A result that will have been as well received in Cardiff as Rome, Italy became the first side to secure their passage through to the last 16 of Euro 2020 with another commanding performance that reaffirmed their threat in this tournament.
Two goals from the outstanding Manuel Locatelli and Ciro Immobile’s second goal in as many games secured Italy’s second successive 3-0 win in Group A on a night when a desperately underwhelming Switzerland were dispatched with even greater ease than Turkey.
Roberto Mancini’s side are now one game away from equalling Italy’s record 30-match unbeaten streak set 82 years ago and, on this evidence, they could prove a hard nut to crack. It is 965 minutes since they last conceded although their miserly defence may now have to cope with the loss of their veteran captain and leader, Giorgio Chiellini, who was substituted in the first half with a hamstring injury.
Against a toothless Switzerland, it was not an issue. Against faster, more potent opposition, any Chiellini absence could yet be keenly felt. The Juventus defender will be assessed on Thursday. “Let’s hope it’s not serious,” said Mancini, who will at least take some heart from the sight of a jubilant Chiellini high-fiving and hugging team-mates at the final whistle and not appearing too inhibited by the injury.
This was a victory met with great fervour in the Italian capital and, one suspects, the Welsh one, too. Switzerland’s defeat, hours after Wales had overcome Turkey, leaves Robert Page’s side well placed to advance to the knockout rounds. Italy meet Wales in Rome on Sunday but Mancini says he will not be trying to plot a route forward. “We will not do any calculations,” he said. “We must play to win the next match.”
There will be tougher challenges to come but it is not taking long for Italy to look like Italy at a major tournament again. Mancini has always known how to organise a side and, after three years in the job, he seems to have the Azzurri just where he wants them: industrious, inventive, in sync and with the bit between their teeth. Portugal were the last side to beat them, in 2018, and it is easy to see why, even if it was mystifying as to why the Swiss coach, Vladimir Petkovic, did not move more swiftly to address the midfield imbalance that afforded the Italians complete control of the game in which their opponents were alarmingly passive and laboured.