Turkey vs Italy 2-3: Raspadori Initiates the Azzurri New Era

The Azzurri‘s rebirth started with a win. Five days after their humiliating defeat to North Macedonia, Italy inaugurated their new era by beating Turkey 3-2 in Konya in a friendly game. There was nothing at stake in this rainy Turkish night, but Roberto Mancini and his boys needed to at least give some signs of life after their plans to join the World Cup were shockingly derailed.  

They did so as the coach also found some preliminary, encouraging answers in his quest to rebuild the Azzurri‘s front line. Giacomo Raspadori, who was deployed upfront alongside his Sassuolo teammate Gianluca Scamacca and Roma starlet Nicolò Zaniolo, scored a brace after Bryan Cristante canceled Turkey’s opened.

The home side had taken the lead with a Cengiz Under shot after just four minutes, thanks to Gianluigi Donnarumma’s kind cooperation. The former Milan goalie, however, did redeem himself in the second half with two superb saves that enabled the Azzurri to remain in the driving seat and at least come home with a win.

Only FIFA knows the rationale behind forcing the World Cup playoff losers to dispute a friendly match that not a single person likely saw the need for. But, since they were there, coach Mancini took the chance to test a few new solution in his Italy lineup, just after confirming that he will remain at the helm of the Azzurri to try to cleanse the dishonor of the missed qualification.

Donnarumma was confirmed between the sticks, with Francesco Acerbi joining Giorgio Chiellini at center back in what might have been one of the Juventus veteran’s last appearances with the Azzurri. Mattia De Sciglio played as right back three years after collecting his last cap as a starter with Italy while Cristiano Biraghi covered the other flank.

Cristante played in the hole with Matteo Pessina and Sandro Tonali completing the midfield package. Upfront, Zaniolo, Scamacca, and Raspadori formed one of the youngest front lines ever seen wearing the Nazionale‘s jersey.    

Despite all the good intentions, though, Italy picked up from where they’d left off in Palermo and their start was an absolute disaster. It took just four minutes for former Roma winger Cengiz Under to dash past Chiellini a fire a shot that caught Donnarumma dreadfully unprepared, the ball sliding between his legs at the near post. Not a great moment for the PSG shot-stopper.

All eyes were on Italy’s strikers. Scamacca was very active from the start, Zaniolo grew little by little and so did Raspadori. The Azzurri took quite some time to make themselves dangerous as Turkey left little space to their initiatives. 

On 35 minutes, though, a Cristiano Biraghi perfectly-timed free kick found Bryan Cristante’s winning header. It happened right when we had started to believe that, after losing to North Macedonia, things could even go worse than that.

Cristante’s goal shocked the Azzurri, who scored again three minutes later. This time, it was Tonali to intercept the ball at midfield, pouncing on a defective pass from goalkeeper Altay Bayindir to serve Raspadori. The Sassuolo’s prospect lightning-fast shot hit the target and sent Italy to the break on a one-goal cushion, also because Donnarumma started to redeem himself with a brilliant save from an Hakan Calhanoglu volley. 

The Italian keeper continued his atonement as he pushed back another challenge from his former teammate four minutes into the second period.

The second half offered Mancini more chances to do some test: Mattia Zaccagni was sent in right after the restart to replace a Zaniolo who didn’t quite shine as he could have done. The coach eventually sent in also Alessandro Bastoni, Manuel Locatelli, Stefano Sensi. Leonardo Bonucci played in the final minutes when Mancini also tried to switch to an unprecedented 3-5-2 formation. 

Italy had their third goal on 69 minutes as Raspadori had his first brace with the Azzurri, finishing from a Biraghi flank-play following a cross from the right-hand side. It was not over yet, though, as the Turks halved their gap with Serdar Dursun with 84 minutes on the clock.

The Fenerbahce forward whipped the ball into the back of net, anticipating a once-again hesitant Donnarumma, after Caglar Soyuncu had bested his marker Tonali to serve him a brilliant assist to make it 2-3. 

Turkey should have had their third as well, but this time Donnarumma pulled off some spectacular goalkeeping and pushed the ball away from the top right corner of the goal from Dursun’s header. And so, Roberto Mancini’s Italy 2.0 could start their adventure with a victory.

It was a small consolation happening right as Cristiano Ronaldo and co. defeated North Macedonia to fly to Qatar but the Azzurri had to restart from somewhere. Good luck for the future.



March 29, 2021 – Friendly

SCORERS: 4′ Under (T), 35′ Cristante (I), 38′ Raspadori (I), 69′ Raspadori (I), 82′ Dursun (T)

TURKEY (3-4-3): Bayindir; Kabak (9′ Ayhan), Demiral, Soyuncu; Muldur, Tokoz (62′ Ozcan), Calhanoglu (76′ Celik), Yilmaz (62′ Kutlu); Under, Akturkoglu (62′ Dursun); Unal (76′ Antalyali) (Erkin, Cakir, Bozok, Kokcu, Bolat) Coach: Kuntz
ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; De Sciglio, Acerbi, Chiellini (76′ Bastoni), Biraghi; Tonali, Cristante (76′ Locatelli), Pessina (76′ Sensi); Zaniolo (46′ Zaccagni), Scamacca (88′ Belotti), Raspadori (89′ Bonucci) (Sirigu, Gollini, Barella, Emerson, Pellegrini, Joao Pedro) Coach: Mancini

REFEREE: Jorgji (Albania)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Muldur (T), Zaniolo (I); Added Time: 1st Half: 1′, 2nd Half: 4′