Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Tuesday praised his former Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini for turning Italy into possible Euro 2020 title challengers despite a lack of obvious star players.
Switzerland were held 1-1 by Wales in their Group A opener in Baku and on Wednesday take on Italy who beat Turkey 3-0 in Rome.
“I can’t wait to play this match, I can’t wait to see Roberto again tomorrow. He’s a great man, an excellent coach,” said Liverpool player Shaqiri, who had a brief spell at Inter six years ago.
“Italy are an excellent team, among the favourites.
“The team are very balanced, between attacking and defending.
“They’re a great team who play well together, there are no great players of the past like (Andrea) Pirlo, but Mancini has done a great job.
“Italy are so successful because of this. They have grown as a team.”
The Swiss come up against an Italy side who have not conceded a goal in a nine-match winning streak.
But Shaqiri knows Italy will be a force to be reckoned with going forwards, after they scored more than twice in a European Championship finals game for the first time against Turkey.
“I imagine that Italy will attack. It’s not the Italy who had the tendency to defend,” added Shaqiri.
“The current one are spectacular, they play very attacking football and they feel comfortable playing like that.”
Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic returns to the Stadio Olimpico where he coached Lazio for two years until 2014 before taking over the national side.
“(Italy) are a big favourite, not only in this game, but also for the tournament,” said the 57-year-old.
“But we must show our qualities, we must surprise, amaze Italy.
“We have shown against big opponents that we can score.”
Mancini, meanwhile rated Shaqiri as “one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe”.
“Switzerland are a team that have historically always put us in difficulty, with a coach who knows Italian football very well,” said the former Manchester City manager.
“They have been in the top 10 in the FIFA rankings for years, they have great players and a very experienced coach. We will have to respect them a lot.”
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci believes the current Azzurri squad has gelled like no other he has played in as they look to push their unbeaten run to 29 games.
“We are a good mix of youngsters and veterans who are so happy to spend time together. I haven’t seen this for many years here,” added the Juventus veteran.
Wales take on Turkey
Wales are readying themselves for a hostile reception when they face Turkey in Baku at Euro 2020 later after Tuesday’s action saw world champions France beat Germany and Cristiano Ronaldo become the all-time top European Championship goal-scorer.
After drawing 1-1 with Switzerland in their opening Group A game at the weekend, Wales face Turkey in Baku where locals are expected to get behind their Turkish neighbours, who will also have several thousand travelling fans on their side.
“Hostility is no problem. This is what we do for a living. We’re used to playing in away games and being in front of hostile crowds,” Wales captain Gareth Bale said.
Turkey come into the game by the Caspian Sea desperate to shake off the disappointment of losing 3-0 to Italy in the tournament’s opening match.
“For two days following the game we were very fragile, we were very broken. We were really tired and negative,” Turkey captain Burak Yilmaz said on Tuesday as he looked forward to having the crowd on his side in Baku.
“It will be like a host city for us. With the help of the country we want to win this game.”
Impressive in their first outing, and with home advantage in Rome, Italy can secure a place in the last 16 already with a win over Switzerland later on Wednesday.
Before that Russia host neighbours Finland in Saint Petersburg looking for their first points in Group B.
(With AFP inputs)
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