The European Championships are set to begin on June 11 this summer after COVID-19 postponed the tournament last summer. TGH will preview each group in the tournament in the next few weeks starting with Group A which will have the first match kicking-off the championships on June 11. Here is a look at the four nations involved and which two will advance to the knockout rounds:
The Italians were perfect in qualifying, winning 10 out of 10 thanks to leading goalscorer Andrea Belotti (5). In the 2016 European championships, Italy lost in the quarter-finals to Germany and their best finish was in 1968 when they lifted the trophy. Manager Robert Mancini noted a tough draw, but a match in Rome is important because “…it’s one less trip, so there’s less fatigue.”
A key player for the Azzurri will be midfielder Marco Veratti, who has won multiple trophies for Paris Saint-Germain at the domestic level, but has had no success with his nation. 21-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma will also be in the headlines. Not only is he potentially looking to move from his club AC Milan, but he is filling in for legend Gigi Buffon. Donarumma will have to be big for his nation this summer if they want to lift the trophy.
Turkey has qualified for five out of the last seven EUROs, and they did it again with Turkish soccer legend Şenol Güneş. Güneş is a six-time title winner for Trabzonspor and Turkey and won two titles managing Beşiktaş before taking over for Turkey in 2019.
Merit Demiral and Caglar Soyuncu are almost unbreakable in the defense for Turkey. Burak Yilmaz scored 16 goals for title winners Lille in France this season, while Hakan Calhanoglu helped AC Milan qualify for the Champions League with four goals and nine assists. Turkey showed what they are capable of when beating Holland and France, but have slipped up against the likes of Latvia. Watch out for another run like in 2008, when they reached they reached the semi-finals.
Manager Ryan Giggs said that his side would be “fighting for second-place” when the draw came out for the tournament. With that said, this may be Wales last chance for a trophy with the current generation of players. Giggs is currently suspended by the FAW pending a court case and Assistant Manager Robert Page has stepped into the manager role doing well in World Cup qualifying.
This side boasts Welsh legends like Wales all-time goal-scorer Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey alongside youngsters like Daniel James and Harry Wilson. Joe Rodon, who earned himself a transfer to Tottenham this past January, will have to be a strong force in the backline. There is a little worry about the youth in the defense, as their goalie selection has not been ideal. A lot of pressure will fall on Gareth Bale who looks to at least match Wales’ best performance at the EUROs, a semi-final run in 2016.
Switzerland’s struggles in qualifying were well-known as Denmark’s loss to Ireland cemented their place at this summer’s tournament. Their main man Xherdan Shaqiri didn’t play any during qualifying and Switzerland struggled going forward as a result. Manager Vladimir Petković has gotten out of every group stage as Switzerland boss, but has never gone any further than the round of 16.
Granit Xhaka, Yann Sommer and Fabian Schär will be crucial in Switzerland’s defense and will be helped out by playing a lot of minutes together over the years for Switzerland. Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic will be looking for something to prove as Switzerland’s struggles have come from the attack. Switzerland will be hoping that they can get past the round of 16 for the first time and shake off their recent failures to do so.
- Italy (Q)
- Turkey (Q)