Italy make flying start with stylish win over sorry Turkey

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Italy's forward Domenico Berardi, Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci and Italy's defender Giorgio Chiellini celebrate - AFP
Italy's forward Domenico Berardi, Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci and Italy's defender Giorgio Chiellini celebrate - AFP

There is a tournament at last, one year on from Europe’s pandemic summer of 2020, and for Roberto Mancini’s side it felt like they had been waiting a long time for this warm night in Rome to show what the modern Italy can do after a period in the wilderness.

Bravo Azzurri, for a Euro 2020 opener that had goals, energy and a plan from the old Manchester City dictator, resplendent in his retro Italian football federation-issue blazer and slacks. His team burst into Euro 2020 with a hunger to put in the hard yards. It took Italy 53 minutes to break down a Turkey team who looked like they had a case of the stage fright – once Merih Demiral had deflected into his own net for the first goal, this side in red started to crumble.

The youngest squad in the tournament, who came into it with much promise and some good results, Turkey struggled to match the high-pressing, forward-looking Italians. There was a goal from the striker Ciro Immobile and then the Italian’s dinky little creator Lorenzo Insigne added a third.

Giorgio Chiellini swept in for a fine clean sheet-saving tackle in the second minute of time added on at the end and the Italians were beginning to feel like Italy at a major tournament again. After their absence from the 2018 World Cup finals, Mancini’s Italy rebuild looks promising. This was their 28th straight game without defeat, coming close to the national team’s record of 30 that has stood since the 1930s. They are not an outstanding proposition man-for-man when compared to some of the other big European nations but as a side with a shrewd approach, they will be difficult to beat. “We produced an excellent performance,” Mancini said later. “We didn’t allow Turkey to play. They are not a weak side. They have great players.”

Roberto Mancini, Head Coach of Italy reacts following victory in the UEFA Euro 2020  - Getty Images
Roberto Mancini, Head Coach of Italy reacts following victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 - Getty Images

It did not take long to recognise this will be a hard tournament, an energy-sapping slog for the players who survived the pandemic-compressed season of 2020-2021. The Italian organising committee in Rome kept the opening ceremony simple: the great tenor Andrea Bocelli leaning on that summer tournament classic Nessun Dorma and a model car from the sponsors Volkswagen delivering the matchball to the centre circle. Someone check the emissions. Then it was down to the graft. How much could Italy throw at the deep-sitting Turks? How much pressure would be enough?

On a scale similar to the VW miniature car was the Italian No 10 Insigne who had the time and the ingenuity to pick a pass. There was lots of possession for an Italian side who pressed high up the pitch, still without arguably their most important player, the injured midfielder Marco Verratti. But their only serious first-half attempt on target was a header from Chiellini that Ugurcan Cakir tipped over the bar.

Even so, with Italy pressing high in the first half, they struggled to create chances. The Turkey defence looked relatively steady, although when they collapsed they did so swiftly. They were unlucky to concede the first. First, the left-back Umut Meras slipped over as Domenico Berardi approached him, which gave Italy’s winger the room to slam a ball in low and hard that Demiral could not adjust to in time. The cross cannoned in off the centre-half’s stomach. The goal was unfortunate but its effect on Turkey significant.

Ciro Immobile (L) of Italy scores the second goal of his team during the UEFA EURO 2020 group A preliminary round  - Shutterstock
Ciro Immobile (L) of Italy scores the second goal of his team during the UEFA EURO 2020 group A preliminary round - Shutterstock

Senol Gunes, the Turkey manager recalled after his first spell in which he took the team to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup, put a brave face on it afterwards. He pointed out that it was a defeat to a side playing at home in a tournament. “Italy used the pitch very well and physically we fell away in the game,” he said. Lots of talk about how qualification was not beyond his side, although the game against Wales on Wednesday in Baku now becomes critical.

Turkey conceded again on 66 minutes. It was Leonardo Spinazzola, free on the left side of the area, who might have scored but there was a good save from Cakir and Immobile, the Lazio striker on his home Olympic Stadium, reacted first and swept the ball in. “We are a team that plays good football and we have improved over the last few years,” Mancini said. “You don’t win matches by chance.”

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The third Italy goal was a ball given away by Cakir, and then shifted quickly from right to left with three sweet passes to the right foot of Insigne, who shaped it round the Turkish goalkeeper. It was hard to know just what had happened to Turkey, who were overwhelmed by the end. Gunes had set out his plan to counterattack but Turkey never looked remotely dangerous on the break until Chiellini was called upon for that late intervention.

That tackle helped protect what was Italy’s ninth consecutive clean sheet in their last nine matches. Defensively this high-pressing team are still observing old Italian traditions. Chiellini is the oldest-ever outfield player to represent his country in a major tournament and there may well be sterner tests for him than this night.

08:57 PM

A good night's work for the Azzurri

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08:52 PM

FT: Turkey 0 Italy 3

That was a walk in the park for Italy who lived up to the form book with an impressive and complete performance. They racked up 24 shots on goal, dominated possession and gave nothing away. Turkey were desperately disappointing but will still fancy their chances of progression with Wales and Switzerland to follow. They need to improve markedly though.

08:50 PM

92 minutes

Turkey thought they were in for a consolation goal but Chiellini times his challenge perfectly against Yilmaz and punches the air in celebration! One of the moments of the night that.

08:49 PM

90 minutes

There will be three minutes of added time and we finish how we started: Italy knocking the ball around deep in Turkey's half.

08:47 PM

89 minutes

Turkey losing their discipline now. Dervisoglu slides through the back of Barella with a late tackle. Italy are strolling to an opening victory.

08:46 PM

Insigne's goal

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08:45 PM

87 minutes

Soyuncu is show the first yellow card of the tournament after leading with his arm in a challenge with Bernardeschii.

08:43 PM

85 minutes

Beradi has got some cramp and the bleach-blonde Bernardeschi replaces him. Italy have another corner. This could get even more messy for Turkey.

08:40 PM

82 minutes

This will be Italy's ninth straight win without conceding a goal which is very impressive. You have to say, with Wales and Switzerland to follow in Rome they should fly through this group.

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08:37 PM

GOOOAAALLL! Italy have three

Turkey play their way into trouble after a poor kick from Cakir. Barella, then Immobile work the ball across the box for the free man Insigne on the left who whips the ball into the far corner with his right instep. And Insigne now comes off to a great ovation.

08:35 PM

Italy never last in the sartorial stakes

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08:33 PM

76 minutes

Karaman almost meets a cross with a glancing header for Turkey but it skips through to Donnarumma. Italy back on the ball again through the impressive Insigne and Jorginho, former Napoli team-mates. Spinazzola finds so much space down the left again, but Soyuncu gets a last-ditch tackle in.

08:31 PM

73 minutes

Another change from Italy: Locatelli off and Cristante on in midfield. They have another free-kick in a dangerous wide position but Yilmaz hooks a low one clear.

08:30 PM

The scorer of Italy's second

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08:28 PM

70 minutes

Italy dealt with the corner but Turkey have kept the pressure on. Chiellini hammers a ball away and Turkey can build again. Italy happy to just contain and maybe pick off Turkey on two or three more counter attacks.

08:25 PM

68 minutes

The scoreline is now a thoroughly fair reflection of the game. Turkey have been smothered and discouraged throughout, have not got a foothold at any stage. They do have a corner now though.

08:24 PM

GOOOOAAAALLL! Immobile doubles Italy's lead

Cakir continued his one-man quest to deny Italy with another good save from Spinazzola's shot but the striker Immobile was in the right place at the right time to score his first goal of the tournament.

08:22 PM

63 minutes

Turkey put their foot on the ball at last, and come forward down their right through Celik. Jorginho in the right place at the right time again to break up the attack. Turkey making a sub: Tufan off for Ayhan who plays in Italy for Sassuolo. Kahveci also comes on for Yokuslu.

08:18 PM

60 minutes

Italy giving Turkey a bit of a shoeing now. Turkey were much fancied as viable outsiders but they look leggy and disorganised tonight. No cohesion when they regain possession. Italy are stood over another wide free-kick in a dangerous position.

08:15 PM

57 minutes

Turkey causing their own problems again, Tufan giving the ball away in his own half and Insigne's shot deflects over the bar. Turkey clear the corner. They just need to get through the next 10 minutes here. Cakir tips another shot from distance wide, this time from Locatelli.

08:13 PM

55 minutes

Italy going through the gears now. Spinnazola forces a save from Cakir at the near post. The play has stopped because Barella has an injury problem.

08:11 PM

GOOOAAAALLL! Italy take the lead

It's the Juventus defender Demiral with an own goal but it stemmed from Meras slipping in the box. That enabled Beradi to drive towards the near post and he smashes a ball across goal that bounces off Demiral into the net. Not much the defender could do.

08:09 PM

51 miniutes

Barella and Meras clatter into each other over a bouncing ball. I think the foul has gone Italy's way. Incidentally, Cengiz Under plays for Roma so is playing on his home turf. That must help mentally.

An Under is providing a good outlet here on the break. Spinazzola forced him wide to the left and the near-post shot is saved at the near post by Donnarumma.

08:06 PM

49 minutes

Di Lorenzo with some good defencing against Under, the two subs colliding. Jorignho gets Italy moving again but a long pass forward from Barella skips through to Cakir.

08:04 PM

47 minutes

Turkey forced to defence once again, but Soyuncu gets a foot in as DI Lorenzo bursts forward, putting his fresh legs to good use. Comically, Italy then catch themselves offside at a short corner. That was a strange one.

08:03 PM

We are back under way!

Will Turkey look to be more positive in their approach?

08:02 PM

Changes from both sides

Under is coming on to provide another attacking player for Turkey.

Di Lorenzo replaces Florenzi at right-back for Italy.

07:55 PM

Turkey yet to have a shot on goal so far

But all the while it's 0-0...

07:54 PM

Italy's dominance

07:51 PM

Cakir has been good in the Turkey goal

Turkey's goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir jumps to clear the ball during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A football match - AFP
Turkey's goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir jumps to clear the ball during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A football match - AFP

07:47 PM

HT: Italy 0 Turkey 0

Dominant from Italy, who have controlled possession and territory and got themselves beyond the 18-yard line with regularity. One good save from Cakir to deny Chiellini. Italy need a bit more patience and Turkey need to clean up their act with the ball to find their way through Italy's pressing.

07:45 PM

45 minutes

Jorginho tries to chip a pass over the top of the Turkey defence for Beradi, who tries the mirror image of a David Platt vs Belgium, but swings and misses with his left foot.

07:44 PM

43 minutes

Italy bashing their heads against a wall of read at the edge of the Turkey box. Trying chipped crosses, quick one-twos, dribbles but they cannot find a way through.

A good piece of combination play finds Immobile who shoots at Cakir from the edge of the area.

Yilmaz trying to feed on scraps at the other end and dives terribly in the box looking for a penalty. Needs more practice at his local swimming pool.

07:41 PM

41 minutes

Turkey have been more than decent defensively, but the quality of their first two or three passes after winning it back has been non existent. Locatelli puts a cross into the box which Cakir claims easily.

07:39 PM

39 minutes

If Italy have been guilty of anything, it is shooting from some silly positions. This time Beradi ducks inside and blasts a left-footed attempt miles over the bar. They need to show more patience than that.

07:37 PM

36 minutes

That was much more like it from Turkey! They spin a ball down the left hand side into acres of space for Yilmaz to chase. He has the legs on the Italian centre-halves and he feed a ball across goal into a dangerous area. Donnarumma came off his line to palm away, Tufan almost got there.

At the other end, Insigne curls a shot straight at Cakir.

07:34 PM

34 minutes

Some of Italy's set-piece routines have been quite tasty so far, something which can give you a real edge in tournament football. Turkey have not got going at all, but are unscathed. They look like they need a few words and reorganising at half time.

07:32 PM

That save from Cakir

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07:32 PM

31 minutes

Italy pushing Turkey back with another attack down their left through Spinnazola. Insigne drives into the box and his cross is deflected behind for a corner. Taken short to Jorginho, and Cakir comes and punches the next ball in.

07:30 PM

29 minutes

Barella with a probing run down the right but Yokuslu heads the cross away. The midfielder, who was on loan at West Brom in the second half of the season, has probably been Turkey's best player so far. Barella goes down softly looking for a penalty. No chance.

07:27 PM

27 minutes

Yilmaz strays offside, probably the fault of Karaman on the ball who delayed the pass through to him. Turkey starting to show a bit more authority on the ball. Italy's pressing has generally been good so far, but there is space there if Turkey can find their passes.

07:25 PM

25 minutes

Great composure in midfield from Yokuslu to split Italy's midfield with a line-breaking pass but the next ball from Tufan was dreadfully overhit. That was a chance to launch an as yet rare attack.

07:23 PM

23 minutes

Nothing doing after a half-hearted appeal for handball against Soyuncu. Italy have a corner, to be whipped in from the right by Insigne....and he lands it right on the head of Chiellini who planted the header towards goal! Brilliant save from Cakir in the Turkey goal to tip it over. Close to the tournament's opening goal.

07:20 PM

20 minutes

Italy starting to turn the screw with some deep possession in Turkey's defensive third but Bonucci lets them off the hook with a shot from distance which flies wide. This has been a strong and secure start from Italy but no goal. Turkey's play has been very bitty.

07:18 PM

18 minutes

Italy produce the best move of the game so far. Insigne comes inside from the left and plays a smart one-to with Beradi but he curled his shot wide of the post with his right instep. Had plenty of time to line that up, perhaps should have tested the goalkeeper.

07:17 PM

16 minutes

Soyuncu caught in possession on halfway trying to dribble the ball out of defence. Beradi comes across to the left and tries to deliver a cross but it is blocked. The pace of this game will really suit Jorginho in the holding role, Turkey have not really got anyone up against him.

07:14 PM

13 minutes

Tufan with a strong challenge in midfield but the referee saw nothing wrong with it. Turkey settle into their longest period of possession in the Italy half but Spinazzola defends well. Not been a clear chance so far.

07:12 PM

11 minutes

Demiral gave the ball away cheaply in his own half but got back well to get a challenge in against Insigne. Italy build play well down their right through Jorginho and Florenzi but Soyuncu reads play well to intercept a chipped pass forward.

Yilmaz spins in behind Italy's defence down the right and is found by Celik but his cross evades everyone. Much better from Turkey.

07:09 PM

The anthems

: Players of Italy line up to sing the national anthem prior to the UEFA - Getty Images
: Players of Italy line up to sing the national anthem prior to the UEFA - Getty Images

07:08 PM

7 minutes

Turkey have not put three passes together so far but have stayed fairly compact. Chiellini and Bonucci up against Yilmaz is a match-up that should make the Italians feel fairly comfortable, especially if Turkey have to break from deep. The three players are all in their mid-30s. Turkey goalkeeper Cakir comes off his line to sweep up.

07:05 PM

5 minutes

Soyuncu's diagonal ball flies out of play. Lots of teams like the look of Turkey right back Zeki Celik who won the French league with Lille last season. Italy seeing most of the ball so far but the tempo is fairly sedate. They have the type of midfield to keep the ball for fun.

07:03 PM

2 minutes

Both teams lining up with flat back fours and dropping away into their defensive shape when out of possession. Florenzi's run in behind from right back is found with a long ball over the top and he kept the ball in play when it seemed destined to go out. His pull back found Immobile but he was too far past the near post to get an effort on target. Promising.

07:01 PM

KICK OFF!

Turkey get the tournament started. The Italians are actually the away team according to the draw and so are playing all in white tonight.

06:59 PM

Bocelli belting out Nessun Dorma

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06:55 PM

The players are on their way out

The Stadio Olimpico is a little smoky after all the pyrotechnics. They line up for the national anthems. No offence intended to any Turkish readers, but I cannot wait for Italy's. It is a corker.

06:47 PM

Andrea Bocelli now signing Nessun Dorma

A song that will bring back memories of the 1990 World Cup, and Leicester's title win in 2016. Nessun Dorma translates as 'let no one sleep' and is from Puccini's opera Turandot. Beautifully done.

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06:45 PM

Opening ceremony latest

There are some giant inflatable footballs with the flag of every nation emblazoned on them, and people flying on wire banging drums.

A general view inside the stadium as the opening ceremony takes place prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A - Getty Images
A general view inside the stadium as the opening ceremony takes place prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A - Getty Images

06:37 PM

Italy's formidable form going into the tournament

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06:19 PM

A man who could be on the move this summer

Italy and Milan's 22-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma looks on before the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A - AFP
Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma looks on before the UEFA EURO 2020 Group A - AFP

06:14 PM

Mancini speaking

Looking as smooth as ever but no scarf on a summer's evening.

Italy's coach Roberto Mancini gives an interview prior to the UEFA EURO 2020  - AFP
Italy's coach Roberto Mancini gives an interview prior to the UEFA EURO 2020 - AFP

06:05 PM

Team news

No surprises in that Italy team, it is set up to control possession and dictate this game on home soil. Are there enough goals in the side? Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile have not always convinced at this level. Sassuolo winger Domenico Berardi makes his first tournament appearance and could provide some unpredictability.

I thought there would have been a place for Cengiz Under in the Turkey team but he is on the bench. Left-back is a problem position for the Turks and Le Havre's Umut Meras starts there tonight.

06:01 PM

Turkey team and subs

Turkey starting XI: Cakir, Celik, Demiral, Soyuncu, Meras, Yokuslu, Karaman, Tufan, Yazici, Calhanoglu, Yilmaz.

Subs: Gunok, Under, Tokoz, Bayindir, Antalyali, Kabak, Unal, Kokcu, Kahveci, Ayhan, Muldur, Dervisoglu

05:58 PM

Italy team and subs: Mancini's trusted 4-3-3

Locatelli comes in for Verratti in midfield.

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05:40 PM

Turkey's manager Senol Gunes has arrived

 Head Coach of Turkey is seen wearing a face covering - Getty Images
Head Coach of Turkey is seen wearing a face covering - Getty Images

05:35 PM

Jason Burt sets the scene

You can read his assessment of the leading contenders and a Euros likely to have a unique feel given the trauma of the last 15 months across the continent. This is what he had to say about Italy:

Italy must also be in the conversation and they appear to not just be more attacking than in previous campaigns but have the mix right between youth and experience with coach Roberto Mancini impressing and a long unbeaten run under their belts. Confidence is high.

05:32 PM

Fans already in the stands

Fans of Turkey show their support prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A - Getty Images
Fans of Turkey show their support prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A - Getty Images

05:22 PM

Italy's Euro 2020 squad

So much technical quality in midfield but will the lack of a top-class striker prove costly?

05:13 PM

Tonight's venue: the Stadio Olimpico

General view inside the stadium before the Euro 2020 soccer championship group A match between Turkey and Italy  - AP
General view inside the stadium before the Euro 2020 soccer championship group A match between Turkey and Italy - AP

05:12 PM

Early news is that Marco Verratti will miss out for Italy this evening

That will mean Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli will come in, whose name is likely to peppered across transfer gossip columns throughout the summer. His progressive passing from deep in coveted by several top European clubs.

05:07 PM

All of our predictions in one place

Winners, top goalscorer, star of the tournament, how far England will go and much more. Find out what our writers think here.

04:37 PM

Who tops your list?

Our series ranking the best 50 players in the tournament reaches its conclusion today as Sam Dean names his top 10. How many England players are in there? Find out with our final verdict here.

04:25 PM

Roberto Mancini scored the first goal in Euro '88

He also played alongside Robbie Savage at Leicester. Wonder which was his career highlight?

04:02 PM

Long read predicting the Euro 2020 winner

I took a deep dive into the history books and crunched the numbers to look for the Euro 2020 winner.

How much significance should be assigned to form, experience, age, time the manager has been in his job, world ranking, the quality of club players come from or the relative merits of defence and attack?

Spoiler alert: I am quite sweet on Turkey's chances. You can read the full piece here.

03:00 PM

Two well fancied teams kick off Euro 2020

With no host nation involved, it is a European Championship opener with a difference as Italy host Turkey in Rome 12 months after the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These two nations were in the same group at Euro 2000, when Antonio Conte was on the scoresheet in an Italian victory back when his hair was not made of horse tail. Italy have won four World Cups, but have not won a Euros since 1968, losing to France in the 2000 final and Spain in the 2012 final. With England callow, Belgium aged, Germany fragile and Spain untested, Italy are well fancied to sneak up on the rails having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. That was a cataclysm, but Italy have bounced back since. Roberto Mancini is one of the best managers in the tournament, and has Italy on a 27-game unbeaten run. Cast aside all preconceptions about them being a possession-averse, conservative side - with Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella in midfield they have a technical trio reminiscent of some of the best Spain teams of yonder. They do lack a centre forward of class, and still rely on Giorgio Chiellini and Leanardo Bonucci at the back. With France, Germany and Portugal in the same group, the draw could also be on their side.

Turkey have plenty of admirers having finished runners-up to favourites France in their qualifying group and keeping eight clean sheets in 10 matches. They were more porous in the Nations League so it depends which side turns up. Juventus centre-half Merih Demiral will be familiar with plenty of his opponents tonight, as will creative AC Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Caglar Soyuncu and Ozan Kabak are among their other central defensive options, while right-back Zeki Celik and veteran striker Burak Yilmaz won the French league with Lille last season. Manager Şenol Güneş is vastly experienced with a reputation for attacking football.

After coverage of the opening ceremony, we will have full team news.

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