EURO 2020 preview: Group A
Written by The Final Ball on 17/05/2021
Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And as mentioned on the show, the format in this blog will be tweaked for the next few weeks whilst we preview each group in this summer’s delayed Euros. Some weeks could have two groups (because I’m lazy) so you’ll have to keep your eyes opened as we delve into a new journey with one of the biggest sporting competitions to take centre stage this year.
It feels like we’ve missed Italy as a powerhouse national teams for a ling time now. Aside from a “Balotelli inspired” run to the 2012 edition (which ended quite brutally), Italy haven’t really laid a marker on a tournament since Zidane handed them the World Cup in 2006 via an aggressive headbutt. That generation of players (Pirlo, Cannavaro, Totti etc) fulfilled their legacy and not much has come since. But this new squad does a plethora of talented midfielders (Verratti, Tonali, Pellegrini, Barella, Locatelli to name a few), to combine with their historically pragmatic defensive setup which will be led by Bonucci (& probably Chiellini), further strengthened by the next big Goalkeeper in Donnarumma. Even in the creative spaces, Chiesa & Insigne boast talents of a better level of previous years. Throw in Immobile (may only serve purpose in Italy, T&C apply) and there’s a squad there that will look to cause problems and may enjoy the “dark horse” tag.
Player to Watch: Lorenzo Pellegrini
Prediction: Quarter Final
In a similar fashion to the nation, Switzerland always tend to be in the middle in regards to quality and Tournament performance. Like a cheese loving alternative to Burnley, they tend to frustrate the opposition and rely on being difficult to beat, and yet somehow, not only does it work to great affect in a match, but they always seem to come away from major Tournaments with a decent amount of respect, the biggest example of this being the 2006 World Cup, where they went out in the knockout stages without losing a game in normal time. But, the generation that has carried these traits for them is starting not only to age but lack consistency at club level. Yann Sommer has been on the end of Gladbach’s meltdown, Embolo still hasn’t reached the potential that Football Manager 2015 gave him, Xhaka being an important player is always a risk (Just ask Arsenal fans), & it seems Klopp has put Shaqiri back in the toy box for the rest of the season. But the nature to provide at least enough frustration might just give them enough points to slide into the knockout stages by the murky rule of “being one of the better 3rd place teams”
Player to Watch: Breel Embolo
Prediction: 2nd Round
They’ve always seemed to bring entertainment at the few recent tournaments that they’ve made it to (World Cup 2002 3rd place via the current manager Senol Gunes, Euro 2008 gave us plenty), and it looks like they’re coming to do it again, as shown in their recent International qualifiers (especially against Holland). This time, rather than the football IQ of Nihat & Emre, the stature and build of their defenders(Soyuncu, Demiral, Kabak) and strikers (Tosun, Yilmaz) along with the set piece ability of Hakan Calhanoglu makes them difficult opposition for anybody, and if they can tussel for top spot, maybe a favourable draw could see them achieve a quarter final place
Player to Watch: Burak Yilmaz
Prediction: 2nd Round
Apologies to all Welsh fans, you’re not going to enjoy this tournament. A combination of the overachievement in the last edition in tandem with being able to boast two players that make £1 million a week in wages applies a pressure that they simply won’t match up to. Add in the fact that the manager needs to be locked away from women for eternity, there just isn’t the same vibe around the players this time. Their leaders in Bale & Ramsey can’t even really claim that they’ve been close to the level that they were at the last tournament ever since, which leaves the rest to inexperience and erratic potential of Daniel James & Ethan Ampadu. Tournament experience will be good for the young players as it might be their last one for a long time
Player to Watch: Harry Wilson
Prediction: Fighting for 3rd at best