Euro 2020, Group A preview: Advantage Italy, Turkey promises to deliver

EURO 2020: A new-look Italian team looks the favourite to top a fairly balanced Group A, which also has Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

The young and very talented Gianluigi Donnarumma has taken over the reins from his illustrious predecessor Gianluigi Buffon in goal for Italy.   -  Getty Images

A new-look Italian team looks the favourite to top a fairly balanced Group A at Euro 2020, which also has Turkey, Switzerland and Wales. After failing to make it to the 2018 World Cup, the Azzuri rebounded in style by winning all of their qualifying matches for the Euro championship. But with none of its opponents in the qualifiers from the big league, it is difficult to assess Italy’s real strength.

Italy

Roberto Mancini, who took over as manager after the failed 2018 World Cup qualification bid, has brought together a talented and technically efficient squad. Italy also has the advantage of playing at home, and the presence of home supporters, even though in reduced numbers, will be a big influence on Mancini’s boys in the group stage.

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The composition of the squad is quite exciting, with the young and very talented Gianluigi Donnarumma taking over the reins from his illustrious predecessor Gianluigi Buffon in goal. The backline has resourceful names like Leonardo Bonucci and Alessandro Florenzi, while the midfield has class and creativity in the likes of Marco Verratti, Nicolo Barella and Jorginho. With Federico Chiesa and Ciro Immobile featuring in the attack, the Italian team has a few world-class performers who will be looking to bring their club form to the national team. Mancini, who recently penned a three-year contract extension with the Azzurri, has shown enough craftsmanship to bring the team out of relative international obscurity after the 2018 fiasco and turn it into a side that is one of the contenders for the crown.

Federico Chiesa's had a superb season with Juventus scoring 14 goals and assisting nine. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

Squad: Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Salvatore Sirigu; Defenders: Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Emerson Palmieri, Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Spinazzola, Rafael Toloi; Midfielders: Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Jorginho, Manuel Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa; Forwards: Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Giacomo Raspadori.

Manager: Roberto Mancini

FIFA ranking: 7

Last 3 Euros: 2016 quarterfinals; 2012 runner-up; 2008 quarterfinals

Last 5 matches: Wins 5, goals for 10, goals against 0

Turkey

When it comes to playing before home support, Turkey will be looking for good backing from the kindred in Azerbaijan when it plays in Baku (which allows 50 percent attendance in the stadium) against Switzerland and Wales. Turkey has done remarkably well in the World Cup qualifiers under veteran manager Senol Gunes, who has promised to repeat his side’s World Cup performance of 2002, when the national team under him finished a remarkable third.

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Known to be an astute tactician, Gunes will be looking to inspire the side to continue the form that saw it remaining unbeaten against world champion France in the qualifiers. Turkey netted seven wins, two draws and just one loss (against Iceland) to finish a creditable second in Group H as it qualified for successive European Championships. In terms of recent form, Turkey made a remarkable start to it World Cup campaign by downing the Netherlands 4-2 before making short work of Norway 3-0. The results of autumn will definitely provide Turkey confidence in the summer’s Euro. Aiding that confidence will be the results of friendlies played last year, where it held 2014 World Cup winner Germany and 2018 World Cup runner-up Croatia to creditable 3-3 draws.

AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu is likely to remain the pivot in the creative zone for Turkey.   -  AP

 

This is a young Turkey side with only three players from Euro 2016 still in the squad. Gunes, who won UEFA’s coach of the year award in 2002, will be banking on the top club exposure of some of its players like Hakan Calhanoglu, the AC Milan midfielder who is likely to remain the pivot in the creative zone.

Gunes will also be counting on the form and confidence of captain Burak Yılmaz, Yusuf Yazıcı and Zeki Çelik, who recently won the Ligue 1 title with Lille, the French club’s first in a decade. Forward Yılmaz and attacking midfielder Yazıcı were at the centre of Lille’s attack this season, while Çelik played a key role as a right-back.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Mert Gunok, Ugurcan Cakir, Altay Bayindir; Defenders: Zeki Celik, Mert Muldur, Merih Demiral, Ozan Kabak, Caglar Soyuncu, Kaan Ayhan, Umut Meras, Rıdvan Yilmaz; Midfielders: Abdulkadir Omur, Dorukhan Tokoz, Irfan Can Kahveci, Okay Yokuslu, Orkun Kokcu, Ozan Tufan, Taylan Antalyali, Hakan Calhanoglu, Halil Dervisoglu; Forwards: Burak Yilmaz, Enes Unal, Kenan Karaman, Kerem Akturkoglu, Yusuf Yazici, Cengiz Under.

Manager: Senol Gunes

FIFA ranking: 29

Last 3 Euros: 2016 group stage; 2012 did not qualify; 2008 semifinals

Last 5 matches: Wins 3, draws 1, losses 1, goals for 13, goals against 9

Switzerland

Switzerland may not have a great record in the history of Euro, making only four appearances previously and advancing beyond the group stage only once. The situation has changed in recent times and Switzerland is now considered a growing force in international football considering the consistency it showed in reaching the semifinals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2019. Switzerland will hope to continue its recent good form under experienced coach Vladimir Pektovic, who has been in charge since 2014 and guided his team to the round of 16 at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

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Switzerland did well in the qualifiers, winning five of its eight outings. It hit a lean patch after the Euro qualifications and suffered a seven-game winless run (including four defeats).

This saw Switzerland failing to reach the Nations League finals for the second time. But the team seems to be back on track again as it won both its World Cup qualifiers and beat Finland 3-2 in a friendly in its previous three outings.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Yann Sommer, Yvon Mvogo, Jonas Omlin; Defenders:Manuel Akanji, Loris Benito, Nico Elvedi, Eray Comert, Jordan Lotomba, Kevin Mbabu, Becir Omeragic, Ricardo Rodriguez, Silvan Widmer, Fabian Schar; Midfielders: Granit Xhaka, Denis Zakaria, Remo Freuler, Djibril Sow, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ruben Vargas, Steven Zuber, Edimilson Fernandes, Christian Fassnacht; Forwards:Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranovic, Haris Seferovic, Admir Mehmedi.

Manager: Vladimir Pektovic

FIFA ranking: 13

Last 3 Euros: 2016 round of 16; 2012 did not qualify; 2008 group

Last 5 matches: Wins 4, draws 1, goals for 11, goals against 4

Wales

Wales will be looking to recreate the magic of Euro 2016 when it reached the semifinals, defying all predictions, in its first major tournament appearance since the 1958 World Cup. It topped the group stage, outgunning teams like England, Russia and Slovakia, and went on to beat Northern Ireland and Belgium to reach the last four, where it lost to the eventual winner Portugal.

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Wales could not reproduce that excellent form as it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but returned to form to qualify for its second successive Euro finals. It lost only two games as it finished second to Croatia in Group E with 14 points.

Captain Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey remain central to the team’s hopes of doing well in the continental contest once again. PHOTO: REUTERS   -  Action Images via Reuters

 

Additionally, Wales has earned promotion to Division A of the UEFA Nations League for the 2022-23 season. This will be an inspiration for Wales boss Robert Page, who is looking to fine-tune the side after the domestic season ended. Captain Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey remain central to the team’s hopes of doing well in the continental contest once again.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward, Adam Davies; Defenders: Ethan Ampadu, Ben Davies, Joe Rodon, Chris Mepham, Chris Gunter, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Neco Williams, Connor Roberts, Ben Cabango, Tom Lockyer; Midfielders: Joe Allen, Joe Morrell, Matthew Smith, Jonny Williams, Aaron Ramsey, Dylan Levitt, Rubin Colwill, Daniel James, David Brooks, Harry Wilson; Forwards: Kieffer Moore, Gareth Bale, Tyler Roberts.

Manager: Robert Page

FIFA ranking: 17

Last 3 Euros: 2016 semifinals; 2012, 2008 did not qualify

Last 5 matches: Wins 4, losses 1, goals for 7, goals against 4

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