The first 2020 UEFA European Championship pool has now been finalized with Italy finishing top of Group A ahead of Wales and Switzerland with three consecutive wins. Meanwhile, former dark horses Turkey were sent packing with three losses and one solitary goal.
The Azzurri beat the Welsh 1-0 in Rome on Sunday through a Matteo Pessina strike to confirm their strong finish and they are yet to concede this tournament with three clean sheets to Gianluigi Donnarumma’s name after their Stadio Olimpico stint.
Elsewhere, the Swiss made light work of the Turks with a 3-1 victory in Baku, Azerbaijan, to boost their chances of advancing as one of the best-placed third-ranked teams. Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice as Steven Zuber bagged a hat-trick of assists with Haris Seferovic also on target.
Irfan Kahveci had given Senol Gunes’ men hope at 2-1 but that was swiftly extinguished by Shaqiri. Turkey exit with a whimper, while Wales were always going to find it hard to equalize against hosts Italy after Ethan Ampadu had seen red.
The final standings make Roberto Mancini’s men strong favorites to go deep with Group C’s runners-up to come while Wales in second are now going to go up against whoever finishes second in Group B. Switzerland currently lead the wave of teams in third heading toward the latter stages.
Italy have been impressive so far with 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland followed up by a 1-0 success against Wales with several alterations in a show of strength on home soil that sets them up nicely to face Ukraine or Austria in London to start the knockout stage.
Welsh results have been a mixed bag, but they finish second and Rob Page’s men can thank their 1-1 draw with the Swiss and 2-0 success over the Turkish for their second spot as their Baku run paid off with a knockout phase berth against Russia or Finland.
Switzerland will feel aggrieved to have finished third when they were unlucky not to beat Wales, but they can have no complaints with their loss to Italy and they did what was asked of them against a Turkey side that were fancied by many — myself included — pre-tournament.
It is hard to put a finger on exactly what made the Turks so poor with Gunes citing inexperience but perhaps it was all the pre-Euro hype which was largely based on some exciting performances in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying and Burak Yilmaz’s incredible form with Lille OSC.
Regardless, Turkey are now going home while Italy march on, Wales take another step forward and Switzerland wait for confirmation that they will be continuing their adventure as one of the chosen third-placed sides.
Mancini’s side against Ukraine could be particularly exciting if Andriy Shevchenko’s men can continue their prolific streak while Austria will have had to pull off a convincing win over the Ukrainians to have made a date with Italy.
How the Azzurri boss handles the creativity within his squad will also be intriguing as Manuel Locatelli impressed against Turkey and Switzerland before Marco Verratti returned to play a key role against Wales.
Although there remain group games to play everywhere else before we are set, few teams have been as convincing as Italy so far and how they fare away from Rome will also be key after three consecutive games on home soil.