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Holders Italy take on Switzerland on TSN


The fate of holders Italy at UEFA Euro 2024 was just seconds away from being out of their hands.

Down 1-0 late into stoppage against Croatia in the final match of Group B play thanks to a wonderful individual effort from Luka Modric, the Azzurri were saved by some magic of their own through Mattia Zaccagni. In just his seventh international appearance, the Lazio man cannoned home a shot in the 98th minute to pull Italy even and secure their spot in the Round of 16 as runners-up. The goal ended up being beyond precious.

Had Italy lost the match, they would be on a plane back home right now. On three points with a -1 goal differential, the Azzurri would not have finished as one of the top four third-place teams and would have seen their tournament ended at the group stage. It would have been an undignified end for a group who still believes they’re capable of another title.

You can catch Italy vs. Switzerland in the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2024 LIVE from Berlin on Saturday with coverage getting underway at 11am et/8am pt on TSN1/4, CTV, streaming on and on the TSN App.

Instead of going home, the Azzurri have a date with a Switzerland team that finished as runners-up in Group A after an undefeated group stage. Victors over Hungary in their opener, Switzerland followed that up with draws against Scotland and hosts Germany. After reaching the quarter-finals for the first time ever at Euro 2020 via a thrilling comeback against France, Murat Yakin’s side will look to make it two straight in Berlin on Saturday.

With six Swiss players plying their trades in Serie A, there will be no shortage of familiarity between the two sides even if they haven’t played each other in a major tournament since 1972.

Switzerland midfielder Remo Freuler, who spent last season at Bologna on loan from Nottingham Forest and previously played for Atalanta, says that he’s not sure if that actually means anything from a tactical perspective.

“We know the players,” Freuler said. “But nowadays, you work with so many videos that you can take a closer look at all the players anyway. Maybe it's an advantage, maybe a disadvantage. We also knew a lot of the players in the game against Germany. You know each other a bit on the pitch – whether that's an advantage remains to be seen."

In putting his XI together on Saturday, Yakin notes Italy’s pliability makes them a difficult team to play against and he will have to take that into account.

"What makes them dangerous is that they can play in a number of different ways,” Yakin said. “But they will also be worried about us. We're in good form, are unpredictable and will try to come out on top of this game.”

One change Italy will undoubtedly be making is at the back with Bologna centre-back Riccardo Calafiori, one of the standout players of the tournament and the man who set up Zaccagni’s goal, is unavailable due to booking accumulation.

"I'm sorry for Riccardo, really,” club teammate Freuler said. “I would have liked to have faced him at the Olympiastadion. On Saturday, however, the challenge will be Switzerland against Italy. Not Bologna against Italy."

With Calafiori unavailable, Roma’s Gianluca Mancini could be in line for a start, but stresses that the Azzurri’s adaptability could mean a different look entirely for Luciano Spalletti’s team.

"We can only talk about the starting lineups, because during the match the systems changed depending on how the match is going,” Mancini said. “For the last match we started with 3-5-2; the first two with a four-man defence but then it was a three-man defence when we had the ball. Today's football is like that."

The winners of Saturday’s match will meet the winner of Sunday’s England-Slovakia tie. With the likes of Germany, France, Portugal and Spain on the other side of the bracket, both teams are well aware of the opportunity to make a run at this tournament should they get by the other.

"Of course, when we saw [the bracket], it can be said to be quite favourable, but we have already seen in this European Championship that every team are competitive and that the less famous teams are putting the big teams in difficulty, so we need to stay focused and see game after game,” Zaccagni said. “I really like Austria, but Switzerland are also very strong."

Like with the Azzurri and Calafiori, Yakin will be forced into at least one change in his lineup with Mainz wing-back Silvan Widmer also suspended with booking accumulation. What’s most concerning here for Switzerland is that there really isn’t a like-for-like replacement among the rest of the roster for Widmer’s skill set.

Historically, the Azzurri have been a terrible opponent for Switzerland. All-time, Italy holds a 29-24-7 mark against the Swiss with Switzerland’s last victory coming in 1993 in a World Cup qualifier. Only eight members of the current Switzerland team were alive for that match. But five of their last six matches, including the two most recent, ended in draws.

The last time the two sides met, they played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly in a World Cup qualifier in Rome in 2021. Widmer scored for Switzerland with Giovanni Di Lorenzo answering back for Italy.

POTENTIAL SWITZERLAND XI (3-4-2-1): Yann Sommer; Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodriguez; Fabian Rieder, Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka, Michel Aebischer; Dan Ndoye, Ruben Vargas; Breel Embolo

POTENTIAL ITALY XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Matteo Darmian, Alessandro Bastoni, Gianluca Mancini; Federico Chiesa, Davide Frattesi, Jorginho, Nicolo Barella, Federico Dimarco; Mateo Retegui, Mattia Zaccagni