North ruled out of Lions tour with serious knee injury

By Sports Desk April 28, 2021

George North will miss the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa after suffering a serious knee injury.

The versatile Wales back on Wednesday confirmed he sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in the Ospreys' Pro14 Rainbow Cup win over Cardiff Blues on Saturday.

North will undergo surgery next week and could be out for up to nine months, ruling him out of contention for what could have been his third Lions tour.

The 29-year-old tweeted: "Sport can be cruel. We all know the risks when we take the field.

"Unfortunately I ruptured my ACL on Saturday and will need surgery next week. Heartbroken is an understatement."

Related items

  • Italy v Wales: Azzurri out to equal all-time unbeaten run and finish top of Group A Italy v Wales: Azzurri out to equal all-time unbeaten run and finish top of Group A

    Italy will aim to equal their all-time unbeaten record of 30 matches and finish top of Euro 2020 Group A when they face Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

    The Azzurri have won their opening two matches by the same 3-0 scoreline against Turkey and Switzerland, making it 10 wins in a row in all competitions without conceding.

    Roberto Mancini's side are already assured of a place in the last 16, but they require a point against second-placed Wales to make certain of top spot.

    However, victory will be the target for Italy on home soil as they look to match their previous record for games without defeat, set between November 1935 and July 1939.

    Mancini has indicated he will rotate his side with the knockout stages in mind, but experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini has warned Italy cannot take Wales lightly.

     

    "They are a great team," said Chiellini, who is not expected to play any part in the match. "Wales have been playing together for many years and we know them well. 

    "There have been many small changes but never revolutions, so they are tough opponents."

    Wales are practically through to the last 16 after drawing with Switzerland and beating Turkey in their two games, but need a point in the Italian capital to seal the deal.

    The Euro 2016 semi-finalists do not have the best of records against Italy, though, losing seven of their previous nine meetings and failing to score in three attempts on Italian soul.

    But winger Daniel James is relishing the chance to end Italy's long-running unbeaten run, which spans back to September 2018.

    "Italy are a great team, but we have to go in believing we can win. We will do our analysis, and we will go there with our heads held high," he said.

    "They've had a great run going into this tournament, but we want to win every game and we fully believe that we can do that."


    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Marco Verratti

    Verratti was not even named in Italy's squad for their opening two games as he continues to recover from an injury sustained with Paris Saint-Germain, but Mancini has hinted he will play a part on Sunday.

    Manuel Locatelli has starred in Verratti's absence, becoming the third youngest Italy player to score a brace at a major tournament with his double against Switzerland.

    But PSG midfielder Verratti has been one of the key men in Italy's remarkable turnaround after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Mancini will be eager to get him back to full fitness.

    Wales – Gareth Bale

    Gareth Bale skied a penalty in Wales' 2-0 win against Turkey, becoming the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a spot-kick at the Euros since Raul for Spain against France in 2000.

    The Real Madrid forward more than made amends for that, however, by assisting goals for Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts in a well-earned win for the Dragons.

    He created five big chances across the 90 minutes in Baku – the most by a player at the Euros since such records were recorded in 1980.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Italy and Wales' latest encounter was 18 years ago, in a European Championship qualifier back in September 2003. On that day, Filippo Inzaghi scored his one and only hat-trick with the Italian national team (4-0).

    - Wales have made it out of the group stages in their previous two appearances at a major tournament (1958 World Cup, Euro 2016). If they avoid defeat in this game, they are guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages.

    - Italy are looking to win all three of their group-stage matches for the fourth time at a major tournament, previously doing so at the 1978 and 1990 World Cups, and at Euro 2000.

    - The Azzurri have gone 965 minutes without conceding, scoring 31 goals without reply in that run.

    - If he keeps a clean sheet, Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma would be the youngest keeper to earn shutouts in three consecutive games at the Euros (22y 115d on the day of the game).

  • Chiesa salutes Mancini and vows Italy are 'here to go all the way' Chiesa salutes Mancini and vows Italy are 'here to go all the way'

    Federico Chiesa has told Italy supporters they should dare to dream of Euro 2020 glory – because Roberto Mancini has got the Azzurri thinking the same way.

    On Sunday, Italy will attempt to make it 30 games without defeat when they tackle Wales in Rome.

    Doing so would mean Italy equal their all-time longest unbeaten run, previously achieved between November 1935 and July 1939.

    Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have been revitalised under head coach Mancini, and 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland mean their place in the last-16 of this European Championship is already assured.

    "The fans are right to dream and we are right with them," Chiesa said in a news conference. "We are here to try to go all the way and to fulfil this great dream."

    Winger Chiesa, the son of former Italy striker Enrico Chiesa, has made two substitute appearances so far, playing 30 minutes.

    With Mancini expected to rest some key players, Chiesa could get his chance from the start against Wales.

    "The coach asks us to be ready. When he calls me I will be ready, we are all starters and we must be ready to play," Chiesa said.

    "I know inside of me how to live through this moment, there is a fantastic energy, electricity, the atmosphere is great and it's thanks to the coach."

    Italy are looking to win all three of their group stage matches for the fourth time at a major finals, previously doing so at the 1978 and 1990 World Cups, and at Euro 2000.

    Their confidence stems not only from the ongoing 29-game unbeaten streak, but the way they have stepped up their level lately.

    They have won their last 10 games, keeping a clean sheet every time. In all, they have gone 965 minutes without conceding, scoring 31 goals without reply over this run.

    Chiesa has earmarked Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey as the main threats within the Wales ranks.

    Real Madrid winger Bale is "above all" the player that Italy should be watching out for, Chiesa indicated.

    In Wales' 2-0 win over Turkey on Wednesday, Bale became the first player to create five big chances in a match at the European Championship since 1980, the earliest date for which Opta has such data available.

    Opta defines a big chance as 'a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score', and two of those five opportunities against Turkey were converted, with Ramsey and Connor Roberts the beneficiaries of Bale's brilliance.

    Ramsey is a team-mate of Chiesa at Juventus, and the Italy wide man said: "He is a very intelligent and very technically strong player. He has quality, unfortunately this season he was hit by injuries. We are also friends off the pitch."

  • Euro 2020 data dive: Italy hit three again to secure progression, Bale the creator helps put Wales on the brink Euro 2020 data dive: Italy hit three again to secure progression, Bale the creator helps put Wales on the brink

    Roberto Mancini's Italy side scored three goals once again as they stormed into the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a 3-0 rout of Switzerland.

    Italy leapfrogged Wales to the top of Group A, with Robert Page's team having beat Turkey earlier on Wednesday to give themselves a great chance of making the knockout stages.

    Gareth Bale was heavily involved, teeing up both of Wales' goals either side of missing a penalty.

    Elsewhere, Russia beat Finland 1-0 in Saint Petersburg to inject life into their hopes in Group B.

    Italy 3-0 Switzerland: Mancini's Azzurri in rampant form

    It is now 10 wins on the bounce for Italy, with 10 clean sheets to boot, and Mancini is just one game away from matching the all-time Azzurri record of 30 games unbeaten, set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.

    Remarkably, Italy had never scored three goals in a Euros match before their win over Turkey on Friday. Their successive 3-0 victories make them only the second side in European Championship history to open their tournament with consecutive wins by a three-goal margin, after the Netherlands in 2008 (3-0 v Italy, 4-1 v France).

    Manuel Locatelli's double – his first for club or country – put the hosts in control at Stadio Olimpico. Only Giacomo Bulgarelli (v Switzerland in 1962) and Mario Balotelli (v Germany in 2012) have scored a brace for Italy at a major tournament at a younger age than the Sassuolo midfielder (23 years, 159 days).

    Ciro Immobile rounded the win off late on with his second goal of the tournament. 

    The Lazio star is the first player to score in Italy's opening two games of a major tournament since Christian Vieri at the 2002 World Cup.

    Turkey 0-2 Wales: Bale spares his own blushes

    Excluding penalty shootouts, Bale became the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a penalty at the Euros since Raul did so for Spain against France at the 2000 tournament when the Wales captain blazed over from 12 yards midway through the second half in Baku.

    Bale had previously set up Aaron Ramsey for Wales' opener in a frantic Group A clash, playing a fantastic pass over Turkey's defence – one of four chances the duo created for each other.

    The 31-year-old, who created five chances in total, the record in a Euros game since at least 1980, atoned for his miss in style, charging in from a stoppage-time corner to tee up Connor Roberts to settle the contest and put Wales well in with a shout of a last-16 place.

    Only world champions France (six) have won more games across Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 than Wales, who have now triumphed in five of their eight matches in the competition, boasting the highest winning percentage of all sides to have played at any European Championships (63).

    Wales remain unbeaten in their six matches across all competitions in Baku (W4 D2), keeping clean sheets in each victory, while no side has suffered more defeats in the group stages of the competition than Turkey (nine, level with Russia).

    Finland 0-1 Russia: Miranchuk ends goal drought 

    Aleksey Miranchuk scored his first goal for Russia since November 2019 – a run of nine appearances – to secure the three points against Finland in Wednesday's early game.

    The win keeps Russia's chances of qualifying for the knockout stages alive, and a Denmark victory over Belgium on Thursday would throw Group B wide open.

    It was Russia's first win at the Euros since they beat the Czech Republic in 2012 (4-1) – ending a six-match winless run in the competition.

    Miranchuk's goal, timed at 46:21, came after the longest wait for a shot on target in a game at Euro 2020 so far.

    Since 1980, only Sweden at Euro 2016 (0) have managed fewer shots on target in their opening two games of a single European Championships tournament than Finland (two).

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.