Euro Football

Euro 2020: Lille trio can help Turkey run Italy close in Group A

Best bets

Turkey to qualify – 4/6 (Betfred, BoyleSports)

Italy/Turkey straight forecast – 3/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill)

Turkey

Odds (via Oddschecker) – Title: 60/1; To win group: 6/1; To qualify: 4/6

Best European Championship performance: Semi-finals (2008)

How they qualified

Second, Group H – P10 W7 D2 L1 F18 A3 Pts23

Finished second in their group behind world champions France, who they beat 2-0 at home.

In fact, the Turks did not concede in any of their home games – sadly for them they are not among the Finals host nations – and let in the joint-fewest of the qualifiers (three in 10 games).

They also held the French in Paris but taking just one point from their games with Iceland meant they had to settle for the runners-up spot.

Post-qualifying form

Despite their strong Euro qualifying campaign, Turkey finished bottom of their Nations League group earlier this season, behind HungaryRussia and Serbia to be relegated to League C.

They will consider themselves slightly unfortunate though, having lost only twice and finishing on six points (only one other team in the competition was relegated with that total). They also drew a friendly 3-3 in Germany during this period.

World Cup qualifying began well in March with a 4-2 win over the Netherlands and a 3-0 success in Norway. Blowing a 3-1 lead to draw at home to Latvia was unexpected but Turkey still ended the last international window of the season on a run of one defeat in 10.

Squad

After the disappointment of missing Russia 2018, the Turks have rebuilt well to make it to the Euros.

Going forward, much will be expected of AC Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu. He’ll bid to create chances for Burak Yilmaz, who is expected to lead the line after Everton striker Cenk Tosun, who scored five times in qualifying, suffered a knee injury in April while on loan at Besiktas.

Turkey and AC Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu

Turkey and AC Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu

At the age of 35, Yilmaz scored 16 goals in helping Lille end PSG‘s reign as French champions.

He was not the only Turk starring in northern France. Attacking midfielder Yusuf Yazici (seven goals) and right-back Zeki Celik were also key parts of Lille’s success.

The former may well get the nod over Cengiz Under, whose star has faded after a struggle for game-time at Leicester this season.

Leicester City's Turkish defender Caglar Soyuncu

Leicester City’s Turkish defender Caglar Soyuncu

His Foxes team-mate, Caglar Soyuncu, will have a key role to play at the back, however. He’ll likely be paired with Juventus‘ Mehri Demiral ahead of Liverpool‘s Ozan Kabak.

Another familiar face to Premier League fans will be tough-tackling midfielder Okay Yokuslu, who has been on loan at West Brom.

Manager

Senol Gunes – Famously led Turkey to third place at the 2002 World Cup before returning to club soccer in 2005.

He won two Super Lig titles with Besiktas before beginning a second stint in charge of the national team in 2019.

Italy

Odds – Title: 11/1; To win group: 8/13; To qualify: 1/16

Best European Championship performance: Winners (1968)

How they qualified

First, Group J – P10 W10 D0 L0 F37 A4 Pts30

Famously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but there was never any chance of a repeat here.

Italy were one of only two teams to qualify with a 100% record. Only Belgium scored more than their 37 goals, while the famous catenaccio defence conceded just four times in 10 games.

The bookies still don’t fancy the Italians that much, perhaps given the lack of quality in that pool – second-placed Finland finished a full 12 points back, with Greece in third.

Post-qualifying form

Italy’s impressive form continued last autumn in the Nations League as they saw off Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia to win their group unbeaten and reach the Finals, which will be staged in October.

And when World Cup qualifying began in March, the Azzurri kept on rolling with three 2-0 victories, including one over the side expected to be their closest rivals in the group, Switzerland.

It means they are unbeaten in 26 matches as the tournament approaches, their last defeat coming (against Portugal) in September 2018. Seventeen of those games have been won ‘to nil’, including the last seven.

Squad

Despite being well into their 30s, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci remain world-class defenders. Their experience – both have more than 100 caps – will surely have a big role to play if Italy are to go deep.

Keeping both fit may, however, be a concern.

Veteran Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini

Veteran Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini

Marco Verratti’s recent injury has cast doubt on whether he will be able to line up in midfield alongside Chelsea‘s Jorginho and Inter title-winner Nicolo Barella.

Up front, a three-pronged attack promises much with Ciro Immobile having enjoyed another highly-successful season in Serie A, netting 20 times for Lazio.

He’ll be joined in wider areas by Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, much lauded at Napoli this season, and rising star Federico Chiesa, of Juventus.

Manager

Roberto Mancini – Has lost just two games since taking charge in April 2018. Previously won league titles in Italy with Inter Milan and England with Manchester City (thanks to Sergio Aguero‘s last-minute-of-the-season goal).

Represented Italy with distinction as a player and was a two-time Serie A winner, once with Sampdoria and once with Lazio.

Wales

Odds – Title: 200/1; To win group: 9/1; To qualify: 5/6

Best European Championship performance: Semi-finals (2016)

How they qualified

Second, Group E – P8 W4 D2 L2 F10 A6 Pts14

The surprise package of Euro 2016 secured a top-two finish in what was arguably the most competitive qualifying group thanks to a 2-0 final-day win over Hungary.

Their total of 14 points was the lowest of the qualifiers but it was still good enough to secure second spot behind Croatia, edging out Slovakia and the Hungarians by one and two points, respectively.

Their success was based on a strong defence. They conceded only six times but scored just 10 – again the lowest tally of the qualifiers. Six of their games featured under 2.5 goals.

Post-qualifying form

The good times kept rolling for Wales in this season’s Nations League – they won their group containing Finland, Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria to earn promotion to the competition’s top tier.

Five wins and a draw was an impressive haul with the defence again standing firm – only one goal was conceded and five of the games featured under 2.5 goals.

The feat was all the more noteworthy given the disruption caused by the suspension of manager Ryan Giggs midway through the campaign.

Stand-in boss Robert Page also oversaw the two opening World Cup qualifiers in March with defeat to Belgium followed by a notable win over Czech Republic.

Squad

Five years on from their semi-final run, Wales still have plenty of those stars to choose from and, on paper, they have a strong team.

However, getting them off paper and onto the field may be the problem with many of their best players regularly having struggled with injuries.

At least star man Gareth Bale has been fit enough to play regularly at Spurs in recent times but Aaron Ramsey has had a stop-start season at Juventus and appeared only once in qualifying (scoring the key goals in the crunch match with Hungary). It’s also hard to see Joe Allen starting in midfield after all his issues which have meant he’s not started for his country since 2019.

Wales' star man Gareth Bale

Wales’ star man Gareth Bale

Dan James hasn’t had a lot of game-time at Manchester United but his pace will be a big weapon in forward areas with the idea of a lone striker seemingly now ditched despite Kieffer Moore’s 20-goal season for Cardiff.

At the back, Wales are set to play with a three – Tottenham pair Joe Rodon and Ben Davies, alongside Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham.

Another potential problem is in goal where neither Danny Ward nor Wayne Hennessey played a single Premier League game this season.

Manager

Robert Page – The former Wales captain stepped up from his role as assistant manager in November following Ryan Giggs’ suspension due to an ongoing court case. It has since been confirmed he will lead Wales at the Euros.

Deserves praise for the minimal impact the disruption has had on the team – Wales have won four games and lost only one (to the world’s top-ranked side, Belgium) since he took the reins.

Still, the lack of experience – his previous jobs have been at Port Vale, Northampton and with Wales Under-21s – could be a factor at the tournament.

Switzerland

Odds – Title: 80/1; To win group: 11/2; To qualify: 4/7

Best European Championship performance: Last 16 (2016)

How they qualified

First, Group D – P8 W5 D2 L1 F19 A6 Pts17

Won their group but were far from convincing – no group winner claimed fewer points.

They did edge out Denmark and the Republic of Ireland but won just one of four games against their main rivals.

Post-qualifying form

While their qualifying record suggests they could struggle against higher-quality opponents, the Swiss will take heart from their draws with both Spain and Germany (twice) during this season’s Nations League.

However, despite those results they were fortunate to stay in League A – many felt they survived by default as Ukraine were forced to forfeit their game with the Swiss following positive COVID-19 tests. It was Switzerland’s only ‘win’.

Their World Cup qualifying campaign started better, with wins over Bulgaria and Lithuania, while they also beat fellow Euros qualifiers Finland in a friendly.

Squad

Premier League stars will have a big role to play in this team.

Xherdan Shaqiri will be expected to provide much in forward areas, particularly given this team isn’t full of goalscoring talent, a situation hardly helped by Renato Steffen’s injury absence. Shaqiri scored one of the goals of the tournament at Euro 2016 but he’s not started many games for Liverpool this season.

Liverpool and Switzerland forward Xherdan Shaqiri

Liverpool and Switzerland forward Xherdan Shaqiri

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka will continue his midfield enforcer role, while at the back Fabian Schar is fit again, although the Newcastle man and Dortmund‘s ball-playing centre-back Manuel Akanji both tend to throw up plenty of errors.

At least behind them there is an excellent goalkeeper with Yann Sommer having been one of the German Bundesliga’s best for many years at Monchengladbach.

Manager

Vladimir Petkovic – The Bosnia-born boss is now a dual national having played much of his career in Switzerland. He also managed Swiss side Young Boys before moving to Serie A club Lazio.

Has been in his current role since 2014 and this will be the third straight tournament in which he has led the Swiss having made the last 16 at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Group verdict

On a long unbeaten run and with three home games on their side, Italy look worthy favourites to win this group and will have their backers at 8/13.

However, don’t be surprised if Turkey push them close.

They’ve shown their ability to compete with – and beat – some of Europe’s best teams, defeating world champions France, plus the Netherlands, and drawing with Germany (and France in Paris) in recent times.

Several key players have delivered at club level this season and with an experienced tournament manager in Senol Gunes at the helm, they look the best of the rest.

They are 6/1 to win the group for those who like a chunky price but the 4/6 about them qualifying for the knockout stage looks the best bet.

Turkey manager Senol Gunes

Turkey manager Senol Gunes

Remember four of the six third-placed sides will progress to the last 16 so there’s every chance that three points will be enough to go through – it was for Portugal and Northern Ireland in 2016 under this format.

It’s also worth noting that every side who drew at least two games in the group stage made it through five years ago.

For a bigger price, the straight forecast of Italy-Turkey to finish first and second, respectively, looks perfectly acceptable at 3/1.

The Swiss are functional but lack creativity, while the current Wales side is a downgrade on the one which took Euro 2016 by storm.

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