UEFA Euro 2020 Preview: Group A


(GETTY IMAGES, LM, GOAL.COM)

By: Nathan Shield


When looking at the groups in the 2020 Euros, it may be easy to overlook group A. However, with no real underdog, this could be one of the most interesting groups to follow in the tournament. With seemingly strong squads across the board, Group A could produce a dark horse favourite and should not be overlooked.


Switzerland

(Jean-christophe Bott/AP)

Matches:


June 12 vs Wales

June 16 vs Italy

June 20 vs Turkey


World Ranking: 13


Last Euro Performance: Round of 16 in Euro 2016, lost 5-4 against Poland in penalties after a 1-1 draw.


Last World Cup Performance: Round of 16 in 2018 World Cup, lost 1-0 against Sweden.


Despite promising teams in the past, Switzerland has struggled once reaching the knockout stage. This time around, Switzerland’s squad is made up of a group of older experienced players who will soon be replaced by the next generation of Swiss players, with next year’s World Cup looking like this group’s final international tournament together.


Despite a less than stellar performance in their qualifying campaign, they were missing Xherdan Shaqiri due to injury. However, there are question marks around Shaqiri’s potential impact as he struggled to get into Liverpool’s lineup during their 2020-21 campaign.


Players to Watch


Granit Xhaka


With excellent vision and a phenomenal tackling ability, the Swiss Captain cements the midfield and is the glue that holds the Swiss team together.


Despite only one goal and two assists, Granit Xhaka impressed during the 2020-21 Season with Arsenal, showcasing his vision and strong fundamentals. He is sound offensively and defensively and is incredibly reliable on the pitch.


The Euros will provide Xhaka an opportunity to truly shine as he is the center piece for this 2020 Swiss Squad.


Full Squad List


Goalkeepers: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Yvon Mvogo (PSV), Jonas Omlin (Montpellier)

Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Loris Benito (Bordeaux), Nico Elvedi (Monchengladbach), Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), Becir Omeragic (Zurich), Ricardo Rodriguez (Torino), Silvan Widmer (Basel), Fabian Schar (Newcastle United), Jordan Lotomba (Nice), Eray Comert (Basel)

Midfielders: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Djibril Sow (Eintracht Frankfurt), Admir Mehmedi (Wolfsburg), Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool), Ruben Vargas (Augsburg), Steven Zuber (Eintracht Frankfurt), Edimilson Fernandes (Mainz), Christian Fassnacht (Young Boys)

Forwards: Breel Embolo (Monchengladbach), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica)

Turkey

(AFP Photo)

Matches:


June 11 vs Italy

June 16 vs Wales

June 20 vs Switzerland


World Ranking: 29


Last Euro Performance: Lost in the group stages of Euro 2016.


Last World Cup Performance: Finished in 3rd place at the 2002 World Cup, the last World Cup that they qualified for.


From one unpredictable squad to the next, however in Turkey’s case, this could be an advantage. The Crescent-Stars have been surprisingly successful in big tournaments in the past, reaching the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup while also going through to the latter stages at the UEFA Euro 2000 and Euro 2008.


More recently, Turkey has impressed in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, beating both Netherlands and Norway. As for the Euros qualifiers, Turkey surprised France by claiming four points against them before barely missing out on the top spot in their respective group.


With a good mix of veteran and youth experience, Turkey will undoubtedly be a team to keep an eye on in the Euros.


Players to Watch


Burak Yılmaz


Turkey’s eldest statesman and first choice striker is still scoring goals at a remarkable pace for newly crowned Ligue 1 Champs, Lille. In 28 games for Lille, Yılmaz scored 16 goals and had 5 assists.


At 35 years old, this could be one of his last chances for the Veteran Striker to cement his place in history with the Turkish Squad.


Expectations will be high for the captain after his championship season with Lille, especially after Turkey’s impressive campaign in 2020 leading up to the Euros.


Full Squad List


Goalkeepers: Altay Bayındır (Fenerbahce), Mert Gunok (Istanbul Basaksehir), Ugurcan Cakir (Trabzonspor)


Defenders: Zeki Celik (LOSC Lille), Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester), Kaan Ayhan (Sassuolo), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Mert Muldur (Sassuolo), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), Ridvan Yilmaz (Besiktas), Umut Meras (Le Havre)


Midfielders: Yusuf Yazıcı (LOSC Lille), Dorukhan Tokoz (Besiktas), Irfan Can Kahveci (Fenerbahce), Okay Yokuslu (West Brom), Orkun Kokcu (Feyenoord), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahce), Taylan Antalyali (Galatasaray), Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan)


Forwards: Burak Yilmaz (LOSC Lille), Cengiz Under (Leicester), Enes Unal (Getafe), Abdulkadir Omur (Trabzonspor), Kerem Akturkoglu (Galatasaray), Halil Ibrahim Dervisoglu (Brentford), Kenan Karaman (Fortuna Dusseldorf)



Italy

(Alberto Lingria/Reuters)

Matches:


June 11 vs Turkey

June 16 vs Switzerland

June 20 vs Wales


World Ranking: 7


Last Euro Performance: quarterfinals at the 2016 Euros, lost 6-5 to Germany on penalties after 1-1 draw.


Last World Cup Performance: Did not qualify for 2018 World Cup, last appearance at 2014 World Cup where they did not make it out of the group stage.


One of the giants of international football, Italy shocked the world in 2018 when they failed to qualify for the World Cup.


However, this would prove to be a necessary setback as Italy then turned to Roberto Mancini, who has been brilliant as the head coach of the Italian Squad. Through 31 games since taking charge, Mancini has lost just two games and has only conceded 16 goals in those matches giving the Italians a goal differential of +61.


Mancini has created a more fluid and possession-based offense while retaining strong defensive foundations. With such impressive numbers, Italy is undoubtable the dark horse favorite to win the Euros for just the second time in their history.


Players to Watch


Marco Verratti


Despite being injured, Marco Verratti was still added to the Italian roster with hopes of being able to return come tournament time.


The talented midfielder fits perfectly into Mancini’s possession style of play and is hungry to find success in international play as he has struggled to live up to his replicate his club form with the National team.


Verratti looked strong in Ligue 1 and the Champions League with PSG and will be a difference maker in midfield for the Italian Squad as long as he is fit to play.


Full Squad List


Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)

Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint Germain), Manuel Lazzari (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Vincenzo Grifo (Friburgo), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Paris Saint-Germain), Matteo Politano (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo)


Wales

(PA:Press Association)

Matches:


June 12 vs Switzerland

June 16 vs Turkey

June 20 vs Italy


World Ranking: 17


Last Euro Performance: Semi-Finals of the 2016 Euros, Lost 2-0 against eventual champion Portugal.


Last World Cup Performance: Has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1958 where they lost in the quarterfinals, 1-0 against Brazil.


With what seems like a common theme in group A, we come to another squad that has had surprises in store at the Euros in the past, making a run to the semi-finals back in 2016.


While maybe the worst team in Group A on paper, this Welsh Squad has proven to be a force in the Euros in previous competitions. Wales competes hard on the pitch and attacks with a strong counter attack led by Captain and Tottenham Hotspur star, Gareth Bale.


Players to Watch


Gareth Bale


The top scorer in Welsh history is coming off of a great season after being loaned to Tottenham Hotspur from Real Madrid. On Tottenham, Bale was able to score 11 goals and contribute two assists in 20 games. In his two games played with Wales, Bale was able to contribute two assists.


Bale plays with great pace and a phenomenal finishing ability that makes him a threat from anywhere on the pitch. However, due to Wales’ lack of offensive star power, opposing defenses will be hyper aware of Bale out on the pitch.


As the leading scorer and Captain of the Welsh Squad, expectations will be high for Bale going into the Euros 2020. His play will be crucial if Wales looks to make it out of group play.


Full Squad List


Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Adam Davies (Stoke City), Danny Ward (Leicester City)


Defenders: Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Connor Roberts (Swansea City), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United), Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic)


Midfielders: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Joe Morrell (Luton Town), Joe Allen (Stoke City), Jonathan Williams (Cardiff City), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Harry Wilson (Cardiff City), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City)


Forwards: Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City), Dan James (Manchester United), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)