Wales’ Ramsey a ‘man for the big occasions’ ahead of Italy return


Baku (AFP) – Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey is used to performing in important fixtures for club and country.

The Juventus playmaker has scored goals in crucial qualifying matches, claimed three assists at Euro 2016 and starred in three FA Cup final wins for former club Arsenal.

On Sunday, he heads to his adoptive Italy to face the Azzurri in Wales’ final group game at Euro 2020.

The 30-year-old scored the opening goal in the midweek win over Turkey to put his country on the verge of reaching the last 16 for a second straight European Championship.

He joined the record 36-time Italian champions two years ago but his time there so far has been littered with various injuries and he has only played 110 minutes for the Bianconeri since the end of March.

“I don’t think that’s a concern with Aaron,” Wales midfielder Joe Allen said on Friday.

“He’s naturally incredibly fit. He works tirelessly off the pitch to keep himself in shape and I’ve never played with him and thought he looks anything other than fully fit and sharp and ready to go.

“As soon as he turned up here you could see it wasn’t going to be a problem.”

Ramsey underlined his ability as a box-to-box midfielder in the victory in Baku with a last-gasp 79th-minute challenge in his own box on Turkey’s onrushing left-back Mert Muldur.

“He showed that the other night with some of his touches, his movement and everything he did,” Wales defender Connor Roberts said this week.

“Towards the end of the game they attacked, and he made a tackle just behind me.

“I was thinking ‘That’s Aaron Ramsey –- if he can do that, we all could show that’.”

– ‘Inside and out’ –

Ramsey came through Cardiff’s academy and made his Wales bow a month before his 18th birthday.

Gareth Bale set up Ramsey’s goals in the Azeri capital after creating two other golden opportunities for the former Gunner. 

It is a relationship stretching back since their time in Wales’ youth set-up.

“They know each other’s games inside and out,” Allen said.

“In my book they’re both world-class players. When the two of them come together, you expect things to happen.”

Allen and Ramsey have featured together 32 times at international level since the Stoke midfielder’s debut in 2009 and were both named in the Euro 2016 team of the tournament.

Allen said has seen no difference in Ramsey’s play since his move to Serie A.

“I don’t think there’s been a drastic change in his game. He’s just continued to get better and better,” Allen, 31, said.

“Now, he’s got much more experience under the belt.

“The experience of playing in a different league, with different styles of football has certainly helped his game. It certainly helped what he’s brought back to the Welsh camp when he’s met up with us and the Euros.”

Ramsey is set to come up against four Juve team-mates in the Italian capital this week, at a stadium where he is yet to lose.

“We’ve lent on him for a bit of knowledge. A few of the lads have picked his brains about a lot of his players,” Allen said.

“The stage is set for the likes of him. He’s a man for the big occasions. Italy away in Rome is certainly that.”

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