Italy secured top spot in Group A of Euro 2020 on Sunday, beating Wales 1-0 in Rome even though they made changes to their starting XI with progression already assured.
Wales will join them in the last 16 as the narrow loss ensured they remained above Switzerland on goal difference and finished in second place.
Matteo Pessina got the only goal towards the end of a dominant first half for Italy, who were worthy winners despite the close scoreline. Ethan Ampadu was sent off for Wales in the second half.
Verratti was close to his brilliant best as he ran the show and created a game-high five chances. His low free-kick set up the opener six minutes before half-time. On top of that, the midfielder ensured Italy dominated possession and also had a hand in other chances for Pessina and Federico Bernardeschi before the break, plus had an attempt himself. Helped Italy to keep control of proceedings after the interval and set up late chances for Chiesa and Bryan Cristante.
On his first start at a major tournament, Pessina latched on to Verratti’s free-kick after a clever piece of movement and sent an accurate finish into the bottom corner from 12 yards. He had three shots in the first half, finding the target with two of them, and was constantly involved. More quiet after the break, when he was booked, but he had already made his mark and, as Verratti did, created a shooting opportunity for Chiesa shortly before his late substitution.
After starring against Turkey, Bale struggled to make an impact here. He could have grabbed a draw for 10-man Wales in the closing stages, but volleyed over from a glorious opportunity eight yards out. It was his only shot of the match and he did not create a chance for his team-mates before he was replaced with five minutes left. Wales will need more from their star man in the last 16.
Ampadu looked astonished to get a straight red card for a 55th-minute foul on Bernardeschi, but he was late with his contact on the Italy forward’s ankle and had a raised boot, a decision which was confirmed by a VAR check. He became the youngest player to be to be shown a straight red card in Euros history.