One of the more intriguing of the European Championships’ six groups, Group A has an intriguing blend of a favorite with questions to answer and three teams all of whom will believe that they can advance to the last 16. Here is everything you need to know:
Fixtures and how to watch
(All times U.S./Eastern. Stream every game on fuboTV — Try for free)
Friday, June 11
Turkey vs. Italy (Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Saturday, June 12
Wales vs. Switzerland (Olympic Stadium, Baku, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Wednesday, June 16
Turkey vs. Wales (Olympic Stadium, Baku, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Italy vs. Switzerland (Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sunday, June 20
Switzerland vs. Turkey (Olympic Stadium, Baku, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Italy vs. Wales (Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)
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Group A favorites
Italy may have endured their fair share of tournament woes in recent years but the Azzurri seem to have left the woes of 2018 (when they failed to reach the World Cup for the first time in 60 years) in the past and built an exciting new team under the stewardship of Roberto Mancini. Whilst the center back pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini is hardly one of youthful exuberance much of the rest of the squad looks altogether more dynamic and exciting. Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa make for an incisive wide pair alongside Ciro Immobile while a midfield that could include the likes of Marco Verratti, Jorginho and Niccolo Barella is going to be hard to get the ball off.
Mancini’s side are coming into the tournament in fine form having thumped the Czech Republic 4-0 in their final friendly, have not conceded a goal in their last eight internationals, have three home games in the group stages and a relatively favorable path into the depths of this competition if they top their group. Oh and Giorgio Armani has knocked it out of the park with the suits for the national team. The omens are looking favorable for Italy.
In the mix
Group A probably does not have a rank outsider like Hungary in Group F, instead three teams who are more than capable of taking points off the others and who would consider it to be a cause for disappointment if they do not advance to the knockout stages. Switzerland did exactly that five years ago when they were knocked out by Poland on penalties in round two. Their team has not changed all that dramatically since with veterans such as Granit Xhaka and Yann Sommer still likely to play key roles. Vladimir Petkovic’s side proved to be hard to break down in their Nations League campaign but forwards such as Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic and Mario Gavranovic are unlikely to have the other teams trembling.
Hakan Calhanoglu of Turkey
Turkey are in an altogether better position than they were a year ago when the likes of Merih Demiral and Yusuf Yazici looked set to miss the tournament through injury. Instead Senol Gunes can now call upon players who have enjoyed impressive seasons at club level such as Hakan Calhanoglu and Caglar Soyuncu alongside three players from Lille’s Ligue 1 title winners: Yazici, Zeki Celik and Burak Yilmaz. Undefeated so far in 2021, this Turkish side is not one to be discounted in a hurry.
Wales’ preparations for this competition have been altogether more disrupted with head coach Ryan Giggs unavailable for legal reasons. Interim boss Rob Page has so far struggled to find goals from a side with an abundance of talent to play off a striker (Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Daniel James) but no forward option that convinces the coaching staff. Still that was somewhat true in Euro 2016 when the Welsh reached the semifinals; the best holdovers from that side will be supplemented by fine young talent such as Neco Williams, James and Ethan Ampadu.
Game to watch
Turkey vs. Italy — Not only does it bring the curtain up on the tournament a year later than planned but this clash at the Stadio Olimpico arguably pits the two best teams in the group against each other. Italy have a historic reputation for starting slowly out of the traps whilst Turkey have the talent across the pitch to make them pay if they are not at the requisite level.
Italy, Marco Verratti: The great challenge for Italy’s opponents over the coming weeks will be getting the ball off them, particularly if Verratti is able to set the tempo. The great question — and it is one Paris Saint-Germain fans will be familiar with — is whether he will be fit enough, though Mancini has indicated that the 28-year-old is likely to be ready in time for the opening game against Turkey.
Switzerland, Yann Sommer: If the Swiss are to be successful in this competition past experience has suggested it will be down to the strength of their defense. Fortunately for them Sommer is an ideal last line should the worst come to the worst. Only one player has made more saves in the Bundesliga over the last three seasons than Borussia Monchengladbach’s goalkeeper, who has established himself among the top tier of European players in his position.
Turkey, Burak Yilmaz: Scorer of goals by the truckload in recent months, Yilmaz had 18 in 33 for Lille during their title-winning season and has four in five so far in 2021 for the Crescent-Stars. He should have plenty of chances from the Turkish supply line; if he keeps up his form Turkey will be a test for every team in this competition.
Wales, Aaron Ramsey: One might make a case for Gareth Bale but it is the Juventus man whose presence or absence tends to define Wales’ fortunes. In 2016 his absence from the semi-final defeat to Portugal left Chris Coleman’s side lacking in midfield guile, three years later his brace against Hungary fired them to Euro 2020. Injuries have limited Ramsey’s involvement to only four starts in the last 24 international games; if he is even close to fit Wales will be a far tougher opponent.