Wales interim manager Rob Page declared that Wales’ narrow defeat by Italy felt like a win, after it saw see the nation qualify for the knock-out stages of a second consecutive European Championship.
The team, who played the last 35 minutes with ten men after Nathan Ampadu’s dismissal, were at risk of losing second spot, as Switzerland went 3-1 ahead against Turkey and a quality Italy side launched relentless attacks on them. But Page’s players held out.
‘Of course it does feel like a win because we’ve got second spot,’ Page said. ‘It’s that feeling of winning. We knew we were in for a tough game coming into it. It’s tough enough with 11 men but to go down to 10 men gave us an even bigger hill to climb. We’ve got the job done.’
Page said he thought Ampadu’s dismissal was wrong. ‘I thought it was a harsh decision at the time. I thought it might have been a yellow,’ he said. ‘He will learn from it.’
Aaron Ramsey was another major part of the defensive effort again.
‘There’s been questions over his fitness coming into the camp but he’s played today off the back of two massive performances,’ Page said.
Joe Rodon was another huge presence. ‘He’s been brilliant, absolutely,’ Page said. ‘He and [Chris Mepham] have formed a great partnership. Joe was very good and very commanding in the box.’
Page said Wales take huge belief into the knock-out stages, with the possible prospect of playing Holland in Baku if they can beat Russia, Finland or Denmark in Amsterdam on Saturday.
‘Are we going to go into these against top, top teams and command possession? Probably not,’ Page said.’ Are we going to have to defend resolutely? Absolutely. Do we have players who can hurt them on the counter? Yes.’