Ahead of the build-up to the 2020 UEFA European Championship, Gbamm! returns with a detailed daily analysis of Europe’s premier national team competition to get the fans excited before and during the tournament.
We profile all six groups and a breakdown of the 24 teams as we begin the countdown to the competition proper which gets underway on Friday, 11th June.
Group A (Host cities Rome and Baku)
The Azzurri of Italy are certainly the team to beat in this group as they aim to add to their solitary tournament win (1968) and there appears to be none other better individual to lead this generation’s title charge than the hugely experienced Roberto Mancini, who brings with him over a decade of managerial success across Europe.
Mancini, 56, favours a 4-3-3 formation with experienced Juventus defensive magnetic duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci offering protection in front of the highly-rated tournament debutant Gianluigi Donnarumma, whose club future remains a major talking point.
If as expected Marco Verratti makes his return from injury ahead of the competition’s opening fixture against Turkey, he should be one of two deep-lying playmakers alongside Chelsea’s Jorginho with Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella (on the back of been named midfielder of the season in the concluded Serie A campaign) playing slightly ahead of the pair in the midfield.
The attack pretty much picks itself with the dynamic duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi playing either side of Ciro Immobile, scorer of 20 Serie A goals in the past season.
Dark horses Turkey have a statement or two to make and will aim to qualify for the knockout phase following their group-stage exit five years ago in France.
Manager Senol Gunes made the unpopular decision to drop fans favourite Cenk Tosun, rather relying on the duo of French league title-winners Burak Yilmaz and Yusuf Yazici to lead the attack alongside the talented Cengiz Under, who saw very little game-time at Leicester City during his season-long loan spell with the Foxes.
Defence could be Turks major strength as they possess a formidable centre half line-up featuring Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool) and right-back Zeki Celik from French champions Lille.
In the engine room, if the hugely talented but often frustrating Hakan Calhanoglu can stay fit and find his best form as he goes about the creative duties, Turkey could cause a few problems and win over a few neutrals with their never-say-die attitude.
Switzerland should be confident of progressing from the group after a series of impressive qualification and friendly matches in the build-up to the competition.
Experienced goalkeeper Yann Sommer, 32, is the oldest player in the squad and together with forward Mario Gavranovic; they represent the only members of the selection born in the 80’s in what clearly is a youthful Swiss team.
Despite reduced game time at Liverpool, Xherdan Shaqiri remains an integral and decisive factor in Vladimir Petkovic’s tactical setup and alongside captain Granit Xhaka they should provide the key passes to forwards Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic to apply the finishing touches to those smash-and-grab counter attacks.
Wales makes consecutive appearances at the UEFA European Championship for the first time in their history but sadly will be without regular manager, the iconic Ryan Giggs, who has been charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.
In his place, assistant Rob Page steps up in an interim capacity and he has a tough job motivating a side who appear on paper to be the weakest in the group. It’s a relatively young squad that certainly will bank on the big game experience of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Wayne Hennessey.
The absence of a notable striker could force Bale to play as the target man, flanked either side by Daniel James and Harry Wilson with Leeds United’s Tyler Roberts a likely supporting cast off the bench in attack.
With little or no expectation and pressure, this team could flip the script and upset the favourites. If in doubt, you can refer to their quarter-final elimination of Belgium at the last Euros.