James talks up Wales upset hopes

Warren Ashurst
June 18th 2021, 2:54 pm
Last Updated 3 years ago
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Daniel James says he believes Wales can spring a big surprise and beat Italy in their final Group A encounter on Sunday.

The Welsh squad are on the brink of sealing qualification to the knockout stages, after collecting four points from their opening two matches.

Rob Page’s men currently sit second in the group and know a point in Rome would be enough to confirm their progress.

Italy though have arguably been the most impressive team of the tournament to date, recording back-to-back 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland and sending out a statement to their rivals.

It’s now 29 games unbeaten for Roberto Mancini’s team and they seem to be equally adept at both ends of the pitch – with 31 goals scored in their last 10 internationals, during which time they have not conceded a goal.

Despite playing in front of vociferous home crowd at the Stadio Olympico, James feels Wales are playing well enough and have the quality in their squad to cause an upset.

The Manchester United winger said: “I think they (Italy) are a great team. They had a great run going into the tournament, they’re a new team from the last Euros, lots of new players, not many weaknesses, but we have to fully believe we can go and get a result.

“We’re underdogs, we’ve nothing to lose going there. We’ll just go in with our heads held high and truly believe that we can go and win it.”

Wales have won two and lost two of their last four encounters against Italy, although they have conceded four goals in each of their last three trips to Italy – the last of which was a 4-0 defeat in 2003.

In fact, you have to go back to September 2016 for the Azzurri’s last defeat on home soil, when going down 1-3 in Bari against France.

The one area where Wales could have some joy is with the pace of James, who has been recorded as the second-fastest player so far at the Euros – clocking up a speed of 33.5 km/h.

The 23-year-old admitted: “It’s something I’ve got to use to my advantage. I’ve always tried to do that. At times, I’ve not used it to my advantage as much as I can.”

Page is unlikely to make many, if any, changes to the side, having started with the same XI in the opening two group matches.

One switch could be in midfield, where Joe Allen came off with 20 minutes left against Turkey and could be replaced in the middle of the park by Ethan Ampadu.

Italy are set to be without Giorgio Chiellini, who limped out of their win over Switzerland with a hamstring problem and is unlikely to be risked. Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi came on as a first-half substitute and is expected to start Sunday’s 5pm BST kick off.

Warren Ashurst

Warren has been employed as a sport journalist for over two decades and as well as years of written experience, has also worked in other areas of the media including radio and television. Football has always been his number one passion and has covered both domestic and international level.