Italy’s squad are well aware of the different task they will face in the Euro 2020 knockout stages, so says Roberto Mancini.
The Azzurri maintained their perfect start to the tournament with a 1-0 win over Wales in Rome on Sunday – Matteo Pessina’s first-half goal proving the difference, while the visitors also had Ethan Ampadu sent off.
Italy are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (W25 D5) since losing against Portugal in September 2018, equalling the longest unbeaten run in their history, which was set between 1935 and 1939.
Mancini’s team have won their past 11 games and kept a clean sheet in each match, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.
With top spot in Group A sealed, Italy will face either Ukraine or Austria at Wembley in the last 16 on Saturday, and look well placed for a deep run in the competition.
However, Mancini knows complacency cannot set in.
With his suit jacket held casually over his shoulder, Mancini told ITV Sport: “We are happy but we know that after the group stage we start a new European Championship. Now it will be different.
“The guys are very clever. They wanted to win every game, they have a good mentality. I am very happy also for this reason because we changed eight players and played a very good game.
“It is always difficult, I think we played against a good team. Wales are a good team, but it was a deserved win.”
3 – Italy have won three out of three games in a single group stage between European and World Cups for the fourth time (2000, 1990 and 1978 the others). Tris.#ItaliaGalles #ITA pic.twitter.com/yW6JKqsVHe
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) June 20, 2021
Italy had 23 attempts, with six hitting the target – Danny Ward pulling off some fine stops late on to help ensure Wales claimed second place in the group on goal difference.
Gareth Bale missed a golden chance to equalise, but it did not prove costly, and Aaron Ramsey was thrilled to have secured a last-16 berth.
“It was tough, for long periods of that game. We were up against a great team, to go 30 games unbeaten is some achievement, so fair play,” the Juventus midfielder told ITV Sport.
“Again, we showed great character This team, you can never question our character. We always give absolutely everything out there.
“We dug in for Ethan, we feel sorry for him, but we had each other’s backs out there and finished the job.
“We have a lot of attacking threat, keep games really tight and work hard for each other, so we have a good balance.
“In the first half, we showed glimpses of what we can do against good opposition, kept the ball well, created a couple of opportunities. We just need to be consistent throughout the game in doing that because we have the quality to do it.
“It’s just about having the belief to go out there and do that, but we’re through in second place, so we’re delighted.”
Bale added: “We knew it was going to be a very difficult game from the start, a lot of defending, a lot of running, very tight. But I’m proud of the boys, we wanted to try and get a result but it made no difference, we’ve finished second anyway.
“We have to just recover again now, we’ve got a bit of a break. Five days to patch everyone up and get going again.”
Wales will face whichever team finishes second in Group B in Amsterdam on Saturday.