Euro 2020 Group A Preview: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales.
Group of the Euro 2020 features one heavyweight and three upstarts that all have the belief they can be the second team that can reach the knockout stage of this tournament.
Italy comes in as the favorites. The Azzuri are a storied national team that made four appearances in a World Cup or Euro finals from 1994 through 201. The Italians won the World Cup in 2006. Yet the program took a change in direction after their streak of 12 straight World Cup and Euro qualifications was snapped when they failed to qualify for the 2016 World Cup in Russia. Roberto Mancini took over as manager, and the team has not lost since September 10th, 2018.
The Blues continue to be a defensive powerhouse under Mancini. They allowed only four goals in their ten Euro qualifying matches. They enter this competition with seven straight clean sheets across all competitions after a 4-0 win against the Czech Republic in a friendly last Friday. Italy won all ten of their Euro qualifying matches, scoring 37 goals along the way.
The defense features the Juventus center back pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. The Azzuri have one of the best keepers in the world in Gianluigi Donnarumma, who minds the net for AC Milan. Marco Verratti from Paris-Saint Germain and Jorginho from Chelsea man a stacked midfield. Ciro Immobile from Lazio and Federico Cheese from Juventus are two of the names to watch up top.
Italy is ranked 8th in the world by FIFA and 6th by the ELO ratings. DraftKings lists the Blues at +800 to win the tournament.
Turkey has not qualified for the last four World Cups, but they did play in the 2016 Euro, where they failed to advance out of the group stage. The Crescent Stars will be one of the most challenging teams to handicap with their low-floor and high-ceiling potential. They conceded the fewest goals of all the teams in the Euro qualifiers, with eight clean sheets helping the cause. Yet they finished last in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League that included comparable Russia, Hungary, and Serbia sides. Turkey can still point to a 3-3 draws with powerhouses Germany and Croatia along with a 3-0 victory over Norway in a World Cup qualifying match on March 27th as signs of what they can accomplish in this event.
The Crescent Stars will be without forward Cenk Tosan, who is out with an injury. The Everton star led the team in goals in the Euro qualifying matches. Gunes, the Turkey manager, does have an intriguing trio of players who helped Lille take the Ligue 1 title in the French top flight. Bural Yilmaz will be on penalties and joined by Yusuf Yakzki up top. Zeki Celik will creep forward up the pitch at right back. Caglar Soyuncu from Leicester City will be parked in the middle at center back. Hakan Calhanoglu takes his talents from AC Milan to patrol the midfield.
Turkey is ranked 29th in the world by FIFA. The ELO ratings place them 17th. DraftKings gives them +6000 odds to win the tournament.
Switzerland has been a solid and consistent national team in its recent past. This event will be the Rossocrociati’s fifth Euro. Their best result at this event was when they reached the round of 16 in 2016. The Swiss national team made the semifinals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League two years ago. They finished in first place in their group at the Euro qualifying matches with five wins and two draws in their eight contests.
Xherdan Shaqiri leads the team from the midfield. The “Alpine Messi” who plays for Liverpool has 23 international goals and 24 assists. Breel Embolo from Borussia Dortmund plays up top. Ricardo Rodriguez from Torino and Fabian Schar from Newcastle United are two of the players to watch on their backline.
FIFA ranks Switzerland 13th in the world. The ELO ratings place them 15th. DraftKings lists the Swiss at +5000 to win the event.
Wales was the surprise of the 2016 Euro with a semifinals finish. After winning their group that included England, Russia, and Slovakia, the Dragons defeated Northern Ireland in the round of 16 before pulling off a monumental upset against Belgium in the quarterfinals. The Welch did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and they finished in second place to Croatia in their Euro qualifying group for this tournament. Wales did go unbeaten in the UEFA Nations League matches, which got them promoted to League A of that competition.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Murray were in the primes of their career for that 2016 Euro performance. Bale was starring at Real Madrid at the time, and Murray played a vital role in the Arsenal midfield. Bale was on loan to Tottenham last season, with him primarily coming off the bench to offer scoring help. Murray now places for Juventus. The Dragons have English Premier League mainstays in forward Harry Wilson, midfielder Ben Davies, and goalie Wayne Hennessey to provide help.
Wales is ranked 17th in the world by FIFA. The ELO ratings place them 17th. DraftKings lists the Dragons at +20000 to win the tournament.