Neco Williams made his first start of the Euros as 10-man Wales suffered a 1-0 loss to Italy on Sunday evening, but their previous results ensure progress to the last 16.
As part of Group A, Wales were among the first sides to play their third group game of the Euros at the weekend, as they took on favourites Italy.
Manager Robert Page made three changes to his side, with Williams among those to come in as the 20-year-old made his first start at a major international tournament at left wing-back.
It was a tough game for Wales, with Italy dominant and going ahead before half-time through Matteo Pessina, while Ethan Ampadu received a harsh red card in the 55th minute.
But though they lost 1-0 in Rome, they became the first home nation to book their place in the last 16, finishing above Switzerland through goal difference despite their own 3-1 victory over bottom-placed Turkey.
Wales will now play one of Russia, Finland or Denmark in the next round, and Williams will be hoping for more minutes after performance deemed a six out of 10 by WalesOnline.
“[He] had his hands full throughout with the main Italian threat of [Federico] Chiesa, which meant we didn’t see those charges forward we have become so used to from Neco,” came Paul Abbandonato’s assessment.
“But [he] dug deep, didn’t let his head drop and the Liverpool youngster will be much better for the testing experience.”
Reflecting on Wales’ progress on Twitter, Williams himself relished the fact he and his team-mates are “not going home just yet”:
Not going home just yet? what a feeling qualifying????????? pic.twitter.com/CoDeH3FUYl
— Neco Williams (@necowilliams01) June 20, 2021
Though they will be ranked as outsiders, Wales are still in with a chance of bettering their incredible feat from Euro 2016, when they reached the semi-finals only to lose to eventual winners Portugal.
Williams was only 15 at the time, but is now a regular part of Page’s squad and genuine competition for the likes of
While his ongoing participation at the Euros will deprive the youngster from a full pre-season with Liverpool, his time at the tournament will no doubt benefit him moving forward.
That is particularly the case if he is to challenge Trent Alexander-Arnold more convincingly in 2021/22, with Jurgen Klopp hoping to rotate more at full-back after a difficult season just gone.