Football

Euro 2020: Mark Hughes upbeat about Wales' last-16 chances

Ex-Wales U-21 boss Flynn says Dragons can repeat Euro 2016 semi-final run

Former Wales manager Mark Hughes and ex-Wales Under-21 boss Brian Flynn were optimistic about the Dragons' chances in the round of 16, after they finished second in Euro 2020 Group A despite a 1-0 defeat by Italy yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Wales finished level on four points with Switzerland but pipped them to second spot on goal difference.

They will next face the runners-up in Group B, who are likely to be either Finland or Russia, although Denmark - who have yet to register a point - are also still in the running.

Former Manchester United and Bayern Munich striker Hughes, whose Welsh side beat Italy 2-1 during his tenure, said on the BBC: "Without a shadow of a doubt, if we have to face Finland or Russia, you'd snap your hand off for that - I don't think either are to be feared."

Flynn, who was Wales U-21 manager from 2004-2012 and had a stint as caretaker boss of the senior national team in 2010, said Wales could emulate their fairy-tale run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016.

 

 

He told the BBC: "I look forward to a repeat, or going even better than Euro 2016 and get(ting) to the final.

"That's how optimistic we are because they are such a talented bunch. You want to get to the semi-finals and the pathway looks promising on paper, but it's not done that way.

"If Wales play like they have, especially against Turkey, then they are a match for anyone in this tournament.

"All credit to Robert Page, he got his tactics and team selection 100 per cent correct for the qualifying rounds."

Wales showed great resolve and fighting spirit in defeat at the Stadio Olimpico as they withstood relentless Italian pressure, particularly after Ethan Ampadu was harshly shown a straight red in the 55th minute.

Matteo Pessina's 39th-minute goal gave Italy a 1-0 half-time lead and had sparked fears Switzerland - who beat Turkey 3-1 in the other Group A match - could come up with the goal difference swing they needed to take the second automatic qualification spot.

When asked if the defeat felt like a win, Page said: "Of course it does because we've got second spot, it's that feeling of winning.

"Don't underestimate the character of a Welshman. It's phenomenal what the changing room has got in there."

His opposite number Roberto Mancini, meanwhile, has emulated legendary two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo's run of 30 matches unbeaten with the Azzurri.

The result in Rome also extended their winning sequence to 11 matches, during which they have scored 32 goals and conceded none.

Mancini, whose side will face Austria in the round of 16 in London, said: "It's nice to have equalled a legend like Pozzo. But he has more important trophies than the 30 games."

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