Italy v Switzerland: Can Petkovic end 28-year wait to beat the Azzurri?

By Sports Desk June 15, 2021

Switzerland will aim to defeat Italy for the first time in 28 years on Wednesday and breathe new life into their Euro 2020 campaign.

The Azzurri were in impressive form as they opened the tournament with a 3-0 defeat of Turkey, extending their recent run to nine consecutive victories without conceding a goal.

Switzerland dominated much of their Group A opener against Wales but saw a Kieffer Moore header cancel out Breel Embolo's opener in Baku.

That result means Vladimir Petkovic's side could become the first team in European Championship history to draw five consecutive matches should they fail to beat Italy.

History is not on their side – Switzerland last defeated Italy in Bern in World Cup qualifying in 1993.

Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini was playing that day and is wary of underestimating their opponents at Stadio Olimpico, particularly with Petkovic having had two years experience at this very venue while in charge of Lazio from 2012 to 2014.

"We know Switzerland are a team who have always caused problems for Italy," said Mancini. "They're in the top 10 or 12 of the rankings and have been for a number of years, and they have a coach in Vladimir Petkovic who knows Italian football inside out.

"It was their opening game, it was very hot, so I think they struggled because of that. We also have them in our group for World Cup qualifying so we know they're a good team, full of talented, skilful players, so we need to produce a flawless performance and make sure we don't make any mistakes."

Marco Verratti could be fit enough for a place on the bench after missing the win over Turkey, although full-back Alessandro Florenzi is expected to miss out after sustaining a knock.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Leonardo Spinazzola

Among defenders, only Denzel Dumfries (six) attempted more dribbles than Spinazzola (five) before Tuesday's matches, while only three players in his position completed more final-third passes than the Roma full-back (20).

Supporting Lorenzo Insigne down the left, Spinazzola offers a substantial threat against a Switzerland side with just three clean sheets in their past 10 Euros matches.

Switzerland – Breel Embolo

Any hope of penetrating the Italy defence is likely to come through Embolo, who scored Switzerland's opener in the 1-1 draw with Wales.

No player had more shots (six) or more on target (three) in that game in Azerbaijan. He also had 10 touches in the opposition box, more than any player in the first four days of action – except, once again, for Dumfries (11).

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first encounter between Italy and Switzerland in the European Championship. However, they have met in two previous major tournaments: in the 1954 World Cup (as hosts, Switzerland won both games: a group stage match and a play-off) and the 1962 World Cup (Italy won 3-0 in Chile, also in the group stages).
- Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5): it was a friendly in October 1982 at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (0-1), in what was Italy's first game after being crowned world champions three months previously.
- Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Azzurri have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the finals, doing so in 2000 and 2016.
- Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championship to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22y 111d on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).
- Switzerland's Haris Seferovic has had 13 shots in five appearances at the European Championship, including four in the first half of their 1-1 draw with Wales. However, he is yet to score in the competition.

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