Rome: Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri 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 today 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.
Force going forwards
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”.
In the top 10
“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.