Euro 2020 Group A: Wales are in vicious group - Italy and Turkey can usurp Switzerland

There would have been grimaces in Wales when they were pitted alongside Italy, Turkey and Switzerland in a super-competitive Group A.

Xerdan Shaqiri is still Switzerland's main man in attack.

The Welsh made the semi-finals five years ago as a Gareth Bale-inspired Red Wall cheered their heroes to a journey of a life-time. While Bale, and key midfielder Aaron Ramsey, are still there, the landscape is very different for The Dragons.

Their build-up to the tournament has been shrouded by a court case involving manager Ryan Giggs, who will not be in situ this summer.

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Having masterminded a qualifying campaign which saw Wales finish as runners-up to Croatia but crucially above Slovakia and Hungary amid joyous scenes in Cardiff at the end of 2019, Giggs has been on leave from his role since November.

Italy are the favourites to top Group A.

The former Manchester United star has been charged with assaulting two women and controlling or coercive behaviour. He denies the charges.

In Giggs' place has come Robert Page, who had just taken over at Sky Bet League One club Northampton when Wales were enjoying themselves in France five years ago.

Page, a no-nonsense former defender and Wales captain, was on Giggs' backroom staff and has overseen four wins in six games.

That type of form will need to continue, as this group is vicious.

Turkey's Lille duo of Burak Yilmaz and Yusuf Yazici will look to bring club form to country.

Italy are on a 25-game unbeaten streak under Roberto Mancini, who has blended together a young, vibrant squad with Jorginho and Marco Verratti dictating the play in midfield. As is often the way with Italy, they are churlish in defence, with Juventus thirty-somethings Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini still coupling up in central defence. While without a world-class No.9, they have enough firepower in Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti to be worthy favourites for top spot.

It would be silly to rule out Turkey, and indeed Switzerland, from that particular conversation. Let’s start with the Turks. Senol Gunes is back in the hotseat, the teacher-turned-football coach who was at the helm when they reached the last four of the 2002 World Cup. He has knitted together a group of relatively young, inexperienced players and made them a force. Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu is their poster-boy in a now well-oiled defence, and the vibrant 24-year-old Yusuf Yazici was the propeller in Lille’s title speedboat, pulling the strings for fellow countryman and Turkey’s elder statesman, 35-year-old striker Burak Yilmaz. The captain of this team, Yilmaz has got better with age. He and his team-mates should not be discounted.

In fact, it would be no surprise if Turkey usurped Switzerland. Vladimir Petkovic’s Swiss haven't changed much, melding pragmatism with a bit of stardust in the shape of Xerdan Shaqiri. Unfortunately for them, the little magician has seen little game-time at Liverpool. Switzerland’s Achilles heel has always been in attack, with no veritable goalscorers. Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic will likely lead the line but the Swiss still pine for the next Alexander Frei.

Wales and Switzerland face off in the opening match and the result of that clash will set the tone for their campaign. Wales have the most travelling to do – matches are in the Azeri capital of Baku and Rome, much to the Italians’ delight. Wales will do well to get close to five years ago. Don’t be surprised if Italy and Turkey make it out alive.

Robert Page will lead Wales in Ryan Giggs' absence.

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