Euro 2020: Group AFriday, June 11 2021
Heading into the Euros, a lot of extra data and context must be considered when looking at potential team performances. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of the numbers are outdated from the qualifiers. This year has helped some teams but hindered others. Some have changed managers while others have lost players to injury, and a few have actually had time to improve. This is opened out as much as possible in these team and player based discussions. The opening data for each team, including top goal scorer and top assister, applies to the team's Euro 2020 qualification, but the deeper analysis will dive into their more recent results.
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FIFA Ranking: 7
Qualification Position: 1st / Expected Position: 1st
Wins: 10 / Draws: 0 / Losses: 0
Last 5 Game Form (Euro Qualification): WWWWW
Goals Scored: 37
xGoals Scored: 31 xG (2.47 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 4
xGoals Conceded: 9.1 xGA (0.9 xGA per 90)
Top Scorer: Andrea Belotti (4) / Assister: Chiesa & Bonucci (3)
Italy head into this tournament as an exciting prospect, especially for clean sheets. They were one of the only sides to have a 100% record in qualification. The team will be looking to regain reputation and form after an embarrassing few years. The nation was left in shock as they failed to qualify for a World Cup (2018) for the first time in 60 years and also saw their lowest-ever FIFA rank.
They go into the tournament on a 25-match, three-year unbeaten run and manager Roberto Mancini has also promised offensive football. In February 2020, he said that there will be "no more defensive Italy" and, in 2021, "that Italy must always attack".
Immobile (£9m FanTeam / £10m Euro Fantasy) is in good form and is sure to be a starter, but he has not replicated domestic form into international output. Analysing his numbers, there is mixed data. That does not immediately attract me to him, especially in a highly defensive group. His 0.72 goals per 90 is impressive, putting him in the top 9% in Europe's Top 5 leagues. But part of this data is inflated by the fact that he takes penalty kicks. He has scored seven goals from the spot this season in all competitions. Removing penalties from his data, his shooting stats are normalised, and he is less appealing for his price tag. He managed a non-penalty xG of 0.44 per 90, which is in the 78th percentile, and his non-penalty xG per shot was very low at 0.13 or in the 37th percentile across Europe. Furthermore, the appeal of Immobile is diminished as it is not certain he will be on penalties, with Jorginho the most likely Italian to be on these.
Across the front line, Berardi and Chiesa may be fighting it out for the right-wing; thus, their pick is a little risky. Insigne is more settled on the left-hand side. This season he has been a good performer for Napoli; he has matched his xG through the season and is consistent with getting into good opportunities with or without penalties. His non-penalty xG is in the 83rd percentile.
Jorginho, Veratti and Barella will make up the midfield of the side. We have seen a record number of penalties in the World Cup, across Europe and in the most recent Premier League season due to VAR. Jorginho did not take Italy's last four penalties, but he was not on the pitch for these. In FanTeam, his price of £7m is a little high for someone whose only output is expected to be spot-kicks, and this is what put people off in FPL this season. However, Euro Fantasy Football have him slightly better priced at £6m, although I still believe it is pretty high.
Bonucci, Chiellini and Florenzi are starters at the back, but they don't have much goal threat. The left-back position is not yet clear who will be the starter. But I feel that Leonardo Spinazzola (FanTeam £5.5m / Euro Fantasy £5.5m) may not be as risky as some imagine. He has had six goal involvements with Roma this season and is the starting full-back for his team. In contrast, Italy's other left-back, Emerson Palmieri, only managed sporadic appearances for Chelsea.
Spinazzola, when compared to similar defensive players in the Big 5 Leagues across Europe, has put up some impressive data this season. He sits in the 97th percentile amongst defenders for xA per 90, 92nd percentile for Shot creating action per 90. His play style of carrying the ball into more attacking areas is reflected in the fact that his progressive carries are in the 99th percentile with 9.42 per 90.
Donarumma has potential for clean sheets, but Italy's strong defence means that he is unlikely to pick up many save points. However, an interesting statistical foible of Donarumma is that across his career, he has saved 15 penalties, 33% of all those he has faced. This season alone in Serie A, he has saved two.
The side is typically deployed in a 4-3-3, with attack being the focus of a moveable front three. There is rotation with the attackers, but the style remains the same: a central attacker, assisted by wingers, all of whom have an eye for goal.
The defence is a strong back four, with the veteran defenders good at stopping their opponents while comfortable playing out from the back. The wing-backs are overlapping and will bomb forward.
FIFA Ranking: 13
Qualification Position: 1st / Expected Position: 2nd
Wins: 5 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 1
Last 5 Game Form: WLWWW
Goals Scored: 19
xGoals Scored: 20.9 xG (2.48xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 6
xGoals Conceded: 5.3xGA (0.78xGA per 90)
Scorer: Itten (3) / Assister: Embolo, Mehmedi & Benito (2)
Switzerland are an interesting prospect. They have recently made headlines after they reached the final four of the UEFA Nations League (2020), beating Europes top-ranked side Belgium. They came fourth place, losing only on penalties to England.
Their qualification data may look impressive, and some may think that this time around Switzerland have solved their perennial problem of lack of goals. But when analysing their matches, ten of their goals came against Gibraltar, a poor footballing side. So when drilling down into the other fixtures, Switzerland only managed a more paltry nine goals in 6 games when playing more challenging opponents.
In 2020 the side had a seven-game run without a win, but towards the end of the year, the side managed commendable draws with Germany and Spain, then going onto a five game-winning run.
There may be some value in this side which prides itself in defensive stop-outs. Yann Sommer is the first choice goalkeeper plus Manuel Akanji is a progressive centre back who likes to get involved in build-up plays with lots of passes into opposition areas and the final third.
But I feel the pick of the defensive players has to be Ricardo Rodriguez (FanTeam £5m / Fantasy Euro £5.5m). He looks like an intriguing asset as he managed a highly impressive 57.9% shot accuracy in European Qualifiers and averaged 2.73 shots/90, which is fantastic for a defender. Also, the newly added rules for FanTeam of accruing points for shots will mean he has the potential to maybe pick up points even for sloppy, speculative attempts on goal. Analysing his club level attacking data, one can draw further conclusion. No goals or assists and his numbers are not encouraging. Again he shoots a lot at club level. So what we can surmise is he likes to take lots of shots, but these are not necessarily of the highest quality as he averaged 0.04 non-penalty xG per shot. But there is added appeal as for Switzerland; he is on penalties and some dead balls situations. This is a player with a relatively good clean sheet potential in the group stages of some matches, plus attacking output is always near with a goal from a dead ball situation or a penalty.
There is some interest in Xherdan Shaqiri, but most of the community have made the right call as he is minority-owned, with only 2% of players having him in their teams in Euro Fantasy. He has not been a starter for Liverpool and has had little form for a long time. He tends to pull out performances for his country, but three-goal involvements in his last nine games for Switzerland is not that appealing, and he is pretty highly-priced in both formats.
Haris Seferovic is a complete avoid for me. Euro Fantasy has completely overpriced him at £8.5m, and FanTeam have a more respectable pricing of £6.5m, but he is unlikely to get many goals, as are the whole Swiss team. Seferovic himself is not a clinical striker. His strength comes from his ability to hold up play, battle defenders and create opportunities for his teammates. But four goals in his last 13 appearances for the national team and a career total of 20 goals in 70 appearances for Switzerland does not indicate someone who should garner interest.
The Swiss manager is also someone who should be respected. Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of the Swiss national team since 2014 and has overseen the side's best performances on the international stage ever. This has culminated in consecutive round-of-16 appearances at the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup, whilst also guiding them to the aforementioned fourth place in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
The manager knows that he will be fighting for second place in the group, and thus his priorities will be to get into the knockout stage by playing to his side's strengths. This will be through a strong defence. During the qualifiers, the Swiss were particularly hardy in not allowing opponents high-quality chances. In fact, the Swiss team were in the Top 10 for best defence with just 0.78xG conceded per game. They let in 6 goals and proceeded to top their group. The formations reflect their defensive nature with a 3-4-2-1 and 5-4-1 lineup typically deployed. This allows the side to transition between attack or sitting compact and be an impassable defence.
FIFA Ranking: 29
Qualification Position: 2nd / Expected Position: 2nd
Wins: 7 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 1
Last 5 Game Form: WLWWW
Goals Scored: 18
xGoals Scored: 18.5 xG (1.53xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 3
xGoals Conceded: 7.2 xG (0.93xG)
Scorer: Tosun (5) / Assister: Çalhanoglu, Toköz, Türüç
Turkey are another side that have turned many heads, but one can also argue that this is a team where Euro 2020 might have come 12 months too late. When the side qualified, they did so with the best defensive record in European Qualification with only three goals conceded and eight clean sheets. This was all the more impressive when you factor that they shared a group with World Champions France, whom they managed to draw and win. Some have said this has proven their ability, especially defensively, to compete against more illustrious nations.
I believe part of this resurgence of the side has been down to the return of the legendary manager Senol Gunes who took the team to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002. Occasionally, people live up to and embody the myth. Gunes is someone who is revered across the nation.
But, as stated, the journey since qualification has not been plain sailing. Recently they have been consistently inconsistent. The side was relegated to League C in the Nation Leagues, but they started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a big win over Holland and a 3-0 thrashing of Norway. Their defensive steeliness seems to have abandoned them, which is a worry for many of the team's most interesting assets. The side have scored 15 goals but conceded 11 in their last six competitive matches.
Cakir is the preferred goalkeeper for the side, but the defensive line is far from settled. Although Celik holds the right-back spot, the left-back position is much more up in the air. I think Celik (£4m FanTeam / £4.5m Euro Fantasy) is an intriguing prospect as he has the potential for clean sheets, but also he was the most creative player for Turkey during their Euro 2020 qualifiers topping the team for Chances and Big Chances created. For a defender, he has good underlying attacking data. This season he has managed 0.13 goals per 90 and has been reasonably regular with shots too, 0.7, of which 33% were on target. But the xG total per game and xG per shot is not fantastic. He has been a fairly good assister to teammates with 0.09 assists per 90, 63rd percentile in Europe's top 5 leagues, and has been good for progressive passing with 4.58 per 90, of which 3.82 were into the final third, which is in the 86th percentile. If you believe that Turkey are a good defence to invest in for their clean sheets, then you can get a defender in Celik who has the ability to get some attacking returns as well.
Calhanoglu, Yilmaz and Under are safe bets in the forward line, but top scorer Cenk Tosun's knee injury means he will miss the tournament, and he is a significant absence. Calhanoglu can score, assist and is on set-plays, so of the Turkish forwards, he is probably the one with the most potential to have goal involvements. Calhanoglu will have the dead-ball duties, share corners with Under, but penalties will go to Yilmaz. In Euro Fantasy, the Turkish assets are priced slightly too high to attract me; they are in an extremely tight group with two other strong defences. But FanTeam's values make the decision to leave them out a little more difficult; the fact that penalty taker Yilmaz is £4.5m and Calhanoglu is only £5.5m does entice serious consideration. However, for me, the value is in the backline. A cheap goalkeeper or defender is enough investment in Turkey for now.
Senol Gunes is a tinkerer, and some have said that this is what has cost the team recently. Although there is no set formation, some argue that he has moved away from what was earning the side success. Looking at their Euro qualification, the side used a 4-3-3 on three occasions, a 4-1-4-1 against France, a 4-2-3-1 plus 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 were both deployed on one occasion. Although the 3-5-2 was used in the game against Andorra when their qualification was safely secured.
Their defence returns to full strength due to the delays to the tournament. Demiral, the Juventus centre back, arrives fully fit to complete Turkey's best centre-back partnership, playing alongside Soyuncu.
FIFA Ranking: 17
Qualification Position: 2nd / Expected Position: 2nd
Wins: 4 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 2
Last 5 Game Form: DWLLW
Goals Scored: 10
xGoals Scored: 10.9 xG (1.33 xG per 90)
Goals Conceded: 6
xGoals Conceded: 8.8 xGA (0.98 xGA per 90)
Scorer: Moore, Bale, Ramsey (2) / Assister: James, Bale (2)
The Welsh side are not having their fragile hopes of reaching the knockouts helped as there is trouble in camp. Manager Ryan Giggs is currently suspended by the FAW pending a court case, so they go into the tournament with Assistant Manager Robert Page taking charge. To be fair, Page has made a reasonable start to 2022 World Cup qualifying.
Qualification for the Euros itself was not easy. Their route into the tournament was only sealed in the very last game in their group, plus half their wins came against the poor outfit of Azerbaijan.
But since losing 3-0 to England in October, the side has been relatively good. Wales have won 5 of their last eight games, drawing two and only losing 1. They managed a commendable draw with Belgium in their World Cup qualifying group. So they do have a little bit of form, but Turkey, Switzerland and Italy seem to be much better sides.
Adding to these worries, the squad is not great. The side does not have a first-choice goalkeeper of any team as Danny Ward, and Wayne Hennessey are backup for their respective clubs. The team also have an inexperienced defence. Stalwart Ashley Williams has retired, and those stepping up into the squad are youngsters Joe Rodon and Neco Williams. In addition, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have been in and out of form and fitness domestically.
Aaron Ramsey has been utilised all over the pitch for Juventus, and thus, he has not been settled. He clocked just over 1400 mins for Juventus this season, adding to the narrative that his move to the Old Lady has been a bit of a failure. When he has played, his passing data has been impressive with a fair involvement in xA of 0.23 per 90, 2.08 key passes per 90 and is in the 97th percentile for passes into the Final Third. But the sporadic deployment has meant that his goal output has been lacking. This season he has just two goals and four assists in all competitions, but again when he has been on the pitch, his numbers have been fair. His 0.3 xG per 90 has been good, and the shots he does take are high quality as he managed 0.15 non-penalty xG per shot. But these are just a few highlights in what is otherwise a worrying data set.
Up top, Gareth Bale will be the most exciting asset, but the team's low goal output is hugely off-putting. Bale himself has only two goals and three assists in his last 11 games for Wales. Their 1.33 xG per 90 puts them below other Euro avoiders like Finland, Slovakia and Hungary. Plus, they will be playing some of the meanest defences at the tournament. Since they qualified for the Euros, the side has only scored more than twice in one of the ten games they have played.
The Wales side itself seems to be an avoid for this tournament. The two other teams in their group are well-coached, well-drilled and have some formidable tactics plus players to see them through. In contrast, Wales are in a phase where their two best talents are ageing, and their youngsters are probably too inexperienced to be relied upon to produce much.
At either end of the pitch, there is not much to like. During qualification, Wales managed to keep their best performances for when they played at home, whereas away they averaged at least a goal conceded in every match. This culminated in only three clean sheets in total.
Tactically the side usually deploys a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-1-2. A lot of the team selection will be down to whether individuals like Ramsey and Bale are fit. If the side is at full strength, many of the positions pick themselves. One can expect Mico Williams and Connor Roberts as Wing Backs, Ben Davies, Joe Rondon and Chris Mepham as Central Defenders protecting the goal of Ward. If he is fit and ready, Ramsey will be deployed alongside Ethan Amapdu, Gareth Bale and Dan James as wingers with Harry Wilson up top.
Ben Dinnery and Jason McKenna take a deep dive into Group A here.
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