Roberto Mancini Says Italy 'Are Not the Favourites' After Euro 2020 Draw

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2019

Italy coach Roberto Mancini talks to journalists after the draw for the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer tournament finals in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Italy national team manager Roberto Mancini said his team aren't favourites in Group A after the draw for UEFA Euro 2020 on Saturday, calling it a "balanced" group.

The Azzurri came out of Pot 1 and drew Switzerland, Turkey and Wales. They'll open the tournament on home soil against the Turks, in Rome on June 12.

Hakob Berberyan/Associated Press

Per Football Italia, Mancini reserved special praise for Wales, who came out of Pot 4 and are the weakest team in Group A on paper:

"While it's always good to see a draw, every team in the final phase is competitive. We could've got France, but at the end of the day, it is a very balanced group. ...

"All games are to be played. We are not the favourites, as all these teams play good football. The fact we are playing in Rome is a small advantage, but every match will still be difficult.

"I want to single out Wales, because they play excellent football and have many of their players in the Premier League. They are solid and not easy to beat. ...

"Nothing is to be taken for granted. Maybe some of the favourites will go out early, but if you want to go all the way to Wembley, you need to beat everyone in front of you.

"We're doing well, but there's a lot more work to do and we need to improve a great deal from here to the Euros. Now I face a big problem whittling down my squad to just 23 players."

Italy and Belgium were the only teams to qualify for the tournament with a perfect record. The Azzurri finished their qualifying campaign in style, demolishing Armenia 9-1:

The Azzurri missed out on a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but that opened the door for a new generation of stars to get their chance.

Nicolo Barella, Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali have become building blocks in midfield, and Federico Chiesa is one of the team's most dynamic forwards.

Caesars (h/t Italian Football TV) gave the young Azzurri the seventh-best odds to win the tournament:

Italian Football TV @IFTVofficial

5️⃣ Germany 6️⃣ Netherlands 7️⃣ Italy 8️⃣ Portugal (same 12-1 odds as Italy) https://t.co/Ezk6CqBHCz

Their odds were better than those of Switzerland, who are ahead of Italy in the latest FIFA rankings. On paper, Switzerland (12th) and Italy (13th), should battle for first place in Group A while Wales (22th) and Turkey (29th) fight for third place.

The Turks impressed in qualifying, however, conceding just three goals in 10 matches and finishing just two points behind world champions France. Led by Merih Demiral and Caglar Soyuncu, they have a talented, young defence that should cause serious problems at Euro 2020.

Wales have plenty of individual talent as well, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey capable of deciding matches on their own. Youngsters Harry Wilson, Ethan Ampadu, Tyler Roberts and Rabbi Matondo have star potential and enough talent to make a giant leap forward between now and the start of the tournament.

Switzerland stand out for their all-round depth and are led by Nico Elvedi and Manuel Akanji. In Cedric Itten, Albian Ajeti, Breel Embolo and Noah Okafor, they have four forwards with tons of upside and versatility.