After a ‘Super Saturday’ that saw Germany demolish defending champions Portugal, France slipping to a draw versus Hungary, and another Spain stalemate, it’s time for two face-offs that are more than just Euro 2020 group stage fixtures. Switzerland and Turkey will lock horns in a must-win face-off, while Italy, who have already reached the round of 16, are expected to test their reserves against Wales.
Let’s check out what’s in store tonight:
Switzerland vs Turkey (9:30 pm IST)
Venue: Baku Olympic Stadium
With both teams in a must-win situation, Switzerland’s game against Turkey on Sunday might just turn into a festival of attacking soccer. A draw is of no use to either as they try to advance to the round of 16. And the bigger the margin of victory, the better.
A win would give Switzerland four points in Group A and a good chance of qualifying as one of the four best third-place teams or even overhauling second-place Wales. A goal difference of minus-3 is dragging the Swiss down. Depending on results in other groups, a one-goal win over Turkey might not be enough. “The whole nation is disappointed. It’s fine to be disappointed, it happens in sport,” Switzerland midfielder Steven Zuber said.
“We know what the feeling is like to be on the other side, and that's our aim to be on the other side on Sunday.”
Turkey lost both its opening games without scoring a goal, and coach Senol Gunes has apologised to fans. A spot in the last 16 is still possible, but it would require a big win over the Swiss to turn around a minus-5 goal difference and for results elsewhere to go Turkey's way.
Just like against Wales on Wednesday, the match on Sunday will feel like a Turkey home game with traveling fans and many locals in Azerbaijan backing the team.
The Swiss haven’t scored much, either, netting only one goal in their two matches. Since the loss to Italy, many have turned on coach Vladimir Petkovic for what they see as negative tactics and a lack of creativity.
Players to watch out for:
So far in the tournament, Xherdan Shaqiri has been a ray of hope for Switzerland, if their previous loss to Italy is overlooked. Granit Xhaka will also like to cash in on Turkey's poor ball-holding ability. The Turks, who have been goalless until now, will hope for Burak Yilmaz to find the back of the net.
Italy vs Wales (9:30 pm, IST)
Venue: Stadio Olimpico
The Azzurri have already advanced to the round of 16, but they are playing with so much spirit and audacity that it’s gotten to the point where it’s become infectious.
So even though coach Roberto Mancini is expected to rest several starters from the opening two matches, both 3-0 wins, the reserves are just as anxious to carry out Italy's free-flowing attacking game.
There’s a lot of energy and a great atmosphere in this national team, which the coach deserves credit for. “He’s really brought in a lot of enthusiasm,” said winger Federico Chiesa, who is expected to replace Lorenzo Insigne on the forward line.
Chiesa was often Italy's top player in their perfect qualifying run for the European Championship, and is coming off a breakout season at Juventus with 15 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.
Calling players like Chiesa and Andrea Belotti reserves seems a bit awkward considering what they contributed during Italy's 10 wins in 10 qualifying matches.
Belotti is the co-leading scorer under Mancini with eight goals, matching the output of forward Ciro Immobile, who he'll likely replace against Wales.
“We have 26 starters and if I'm called upon I'll make myself ready,” Chiesa said.
Marco Verratti, who was also a regular starter before missing the opening two matches of the tournament with a right knee injury, should also feature. He'll likely replace Manuel Locatelli, who scored twice in Italy’s win over Switzerland.
Having also overwhelmed Turkey in the tournament opener, Italy need only a draw to guarantee first place in Group A. Wales, who have four points, can secure a spot in the last 16 with a draw or if Switzerland fail to beat Turkey in the other group match.
“No pressure. We'll go there and enjoy ourselves and if we can get our good players on the ball and a couple of us have a good night, then who knows? We might get a decent result,” said Wales right back Connor Roberts, who scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Turkey.
Italy have won 10 straight matches, all clean sheets and are on a 29-match unbeaten streak. That's one match shy of the team’s record 30-game unbeaten run set under Vittorio Pozzo nearly a century ago.
The Azzurri's form is all the more impressive considering they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Italy had never scored more than two goals in a European Championship match and has now produced three in successive performances.
Players to watch out for:
Italy are quite familiar with Wales’ midfield standout Aaron Ramsey. And Gareth Bale will have to show the golden touch for Wales to reach the round of 16. For the Azzurri, Federico Chiesa might come in place of Lorenzo Insigne as the reserves are expected to be at play.