ON WITH GROUP PREVIEWS, AND KICKING OFF WITH GROUP A
In the first of our EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS, We take a look at Group A. The group involves Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, and Wales. On paper It looks like a very balanced group, with all four teams being close when talking about qualification.
Let’s get into it.
It really feels like ,beyond their ubelievable 2002 world cup podium finish, thus Turkey have no bonafide achievements on the grand stage. They always seemed like a mid-table side, who are happy to spring the odd upset here and there.
However, this time it really feels like stars are aligning for Senol Gunes’ side to make an impact on the competition. It takes a really good side at least to beat the world cup winners, in the qualifiers and finish just two points behind them. Also, they conceded 3 goals less, finishing as their group’s strongest defense.
Probably since THAT 2002 world cup squad, Turkey didn’t have a solid squad properly, or at least it always underachieved. Now, it looks finally like a team able to make a run on the grandest stage. In Caglar Soyuncu and Ozan Kabak they have star defenders. Hakan Calhanoglu is a maestro in the middle, and Burak Yilmaz rediscovered himself in a ligue 1 winning campaign with Lille.
Aside of those, there is Irfan Kahveci, Enes Unal, and Okay Yokuslu who are all incredible talents. The real great thing about this Turkey side, is that there is only two players above 30. Mert Gunok (32) the Goalkeeper and Burak Yilmaz (35) which will definitely be a plus with the rest of the squad being at their prime.
Somehow, through all their underwhelming tournament achievements, Italy are doing really good under Roberto Mancini, finishing their group in perfect 10 win form and an incredible +33 goals in their favor, scoring 37 and conceding 4 throughout a massive campaign.
Their last international defeat was in September 2018, in a UEFA Nations League against defending European Champions Portugal.
The recent history for Italy internationally might be a little bit of a worry, but the amount of talent in the current squad can really motivate the Italian supporters to look forward to their team mixing it up with some very good sides in the group.
Some players are simply waiting for this tournament to explode. The likes of Bastoni, Barella, and Chiesa who all had tremendous seasons with Inter and Juventus. Roberto Mancini should see this tournament as a chance to vindicate his work with the national team for 3 years now.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side bossed quite the tricky group in the qualifiers alongside Denmark, and looked less than stellar doing so. However, you can’t count them out on doing the same in this group. They would obviously want to go much better than the round of 16. That is where their run stopped against Poland in France 5 years ago.
Not so much changed since then in terms of squad choices, which might play on two levels. On one side, most of the usual suspects were there and know what to do. The likes of Schar, Xhaka, Shaqiri, Rodriguez, Embolo, and Sommer have been there. They surely have the motivation to go further. On the other side, it might hinder a lot of the development required to keep up with the other sides in the group.
Semi-finalists in 2016, Wales were the darkhorses that came out of nowhere back then. It could happen again, but it looks very unlikely. They had to work for their qualification until the last matchday of the group, only sneaking in behind 1st place Croatia.
What made Wales’ run great in 2016, is that their best players were at the peak. Gareth Bale was at his absolute best, before turning into a part-time golfer. Aaron Ramsey was on fire, Joe Allen too. Now, Ramsey doesn’t feel like himself, underperforming with Juventus and not getting anywhere close to a starting XI place. And then, there is the “Gareth Bale case”, a player that his value is so damaged that he might seriously be better placed for a golf career soon enough. After all, it’s “Wales, Golf, Madrid … In that order”.
After finishing the Group previews for each team, let’s get to the predictions…
1st place: Turkey
Don’t get it twisted, Italy is very good and Switzerland are not to be counted out. However, Turkey feels like a generational complete squad. Not to say that it is full of superstars (which they have some by the way), but it just feels more in harmony than Italy who might feel disjointed.
2nd place: Italy
Well, Wales ain’t getting there, so it has to be Italy or Switzerland. Italy are simply more compact in the back, and will edge Switzerland and Wales to the punch by having a stronger attacking talent than both.
3rd place: Switzerland
As mentioned earlier, Switzerland should not be written off. But for the same reasons mentioned about them earlier, they can be satisfied by a 3rd place that could see them qualify as one of the best 3rd placed sides.
4th place: Wales
Well, if Gareth Bale wants a golf career he will need to leave the Euros early to have more time for the next PGA Tour.
That’s all for the first of our EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS, we will be doing more of these EURO 2020 – GROUP PREVIEWS along the way heading into the tournament.
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