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Euro Daily: June 20, 2021
Day 10 of the European Championships will see just two fixtures played out, as the group stage edges towards its conclusion.
Below, check out five things you need to know about Sunday’s action.
1) Italy to hand Wales the initiative?
The opening clash of the day comes in the form of a top-of-the-table meeting in Group A.
Italy, the team of the tournament thus far, are set to welcome an impressive Wales outfit to the Stadio Olimpico. As things stand, it is the Azzurri who sit pretty at the group’s summit, having rattled off a pair of wins, by an aggregate scoreline of six goals to nil.
Wales, meanwhile, sit in 2nd, two points adrift of their upcoming hosts, after following up an opening day stalemate versus Switzerland with a deserved downing of Turkey last time out.
— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) June 16, 2021
Could the high-flying Dragons yet go on to displace Italy from their perch atop Group A, though? Roberto Mancini has been widely tipped to rotate his squad on Sunday, with the likes of Emerson, Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti eyeing a first start at Euro 2020.
This, in turn, could open the door for a Wales side boasting the attacking talents of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale to take advantage, with the pressure firmly off Robert Page’s men ahead of the Rome showdown.
2) Wales’ potential opponents
When it comes to the subject of Wales’ list of possible opponents for the next round, though, it is worth noting that a runners-up finish would represent far from a disaster for Page and co.
The winners of Group A are set to face off against the 2nd-placed finishers in Group C, likely to be one of Ukraine or Austria, depending on the final day result between the two nations.
Group A’s runners-up, on the other hand, face a meeting with their counterparts from Group B. With Belgium all but guaranteed top spot, this will most likely leave one of Russia or Finland in 2nd spot. Not exactly a daunting prospect…
Upon a deeper look at Wales’ route through the knockout rounds, it becomes more and more difficult not to be swept up by the notion that a repeat of the nation’s heroics at Euro 2016 could genuinely be on the cards over the weeks ahead.
3) Xhaka aiming to banish Baku memories
Moving onto Group A’s 2nd fixture of the day, Switzerland and Turkey will go head to head, both eyeing a first Euros victory.
For one individual on the Swiss side of things, though, securing a 3-point haul would prove significant in far more than simply keeping the nation’s hopes of a spot in the knockout rounds alive.
The player in question? Granit Xhaka. Sunday’s final matchup will play out at the Baku Olympic Stadium. And to say that Xhaka’s last visit to Azerbaijan’s capital proved a night to forget would be putting it lightly. Back in 2019, the midfielder started for Arsenal, in a Europa League final showdown with London rivals Chelsea. The Gunners headed into proceedings with their tails up, desperate for a win to secure a spot in the ensuing campaign’s Champions League group stage.
When all was said and done, however, Unai Emery’s men were outplayed in every way, shape and form, en route to an eventual 4-1 Chelsea victory. It proved another dark day in Arsenal’s recent history, with Xhaka, above all others, no doubt desperate to banish the memory of that 90 minutes in Baku firmly to the past.
4) Turkey remember 2008
Switzerland’s opponents later this evening, though, are also set to be spurred on by memories of years gone by – albeit for altogether more positive reasons.
The last occasion on which Turkey locked horns with the Swiss came at Euro 2008. On that evening, a group stage clash saw the latter take the lead into the interval, courtesy of Hakan Yakin.
Turkey, however, were not to be denied. After Semih Şentürk dragged Fatih Terim’s men level early in the 2nd-half, star man Arda Turan stepped up to complete the comeback deep into injury-time, securing just a 2nd-ever win at the European Championships for his country.
And their 3-point haul, in turn, acted as the perfect platform for Turkey to prove their true worth, as ‘The Crescent-Stars’ defied the odds to eventually navigate their path all the way to the tournament’s semi-finals.
Surely a similar resurgence couldn’t be on the cards this time around, could it?
5) Ramsey’s Juve showdown
Our final talking point to look out for when it comes to Sunday’s action centers on Wales star Aaron Ramsey. The midfielder is of course fresh off the back of a dazzling performance last time out, which saw Ramsey dominate proceedings in the middle of the park, and even chip in with a goal, en route to victory over Turkey.
This evening, though, the Dragons’ key midfielder will need to step up once more, in a potential showdown with a number of his Juventus teammates.
A quartet of Bianconeri stars have taken their place in Robert Mancini’s squad this summer, in the form of Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi and Giorgio Chiellini. Whilst the latter has already been ruled out through injury, it is not out of the question that the remaining trio could all feature at some point or another at the Stadio Olimpico.
With Ramsey’s stint in Serie A having proven altogether underwhelming thus far, the former Arsenal man will no doubt be keen to remind not only his teammates at club level, but the Italian fans in attendance too, that, on his day, he remains a top-class midfielder.
It is also worth noting that Manuel Locatelli, one of the star performers of Euro 2020 thus far, and a man whom Ramsey could well lock horns with in the middle of the park on Sunday, has been hotly tipped to make the move to Juve ahead of next season.
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