Seriously, Azzurri, what a start! Roberto Mancini’s Italy had given their fans many reasons to be optimistic these past few months, but their easy disposal of Turkey in the Euro 2020 opener cannot but fuel some additional enthusiasm. Moreover, it came in a Stadio Olimpico finally filled with people – albeit partially – who deployed their best bag of football supporter tools made of screaming, chanting, roaring and, yes, also booing. We missed all that.
Italy beat Turkey 3-0 with three second-half goals, powered by Domenico Berardi – who propitiated Merih Demiral’s own goal – Ciro Immobile, and Lorenzo Insigne. Basically the Azzurri‘s whole offensive package made it to the scoresheet, brushing aside a Turkish side from which one would have legitimately expected to see something more.
Turkey appeared organized and solid in defense in the first half but lacked concreteness in the final third as both the much feared Yusuf Yazici and Burak Yilmaz failed to impress. Radio silence also from Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu who was nowhere to be seen for the full 90 minutes.
Roberto Mancini, on the other hand, found positive answers to all his pre-tournament questions. The coach didn’t come up with any surprise in his starting lineup. His men were the same who crushed Czech Republic in the last test match one week ago, with Manuel Locatelli deployed in midfield to cover Marco Verratti’s absence. The young Sassuolo man would not disappoint, drawing a round of applause from the Olimpico fans when he left the pitch in the middle of the second half.
Mancini will just need to wait for some more challenging test to check the solidity of his defensive pack, who was almost never threatened – leaving room for a monumental Leonardo Spinazzola to push forward and put his stamp in the second Azzurri‘s goal.
It took a while for the game to catch fire. Italy took control of the field and kept the ball to themselves as Turkey let the Azzurri play and limited themselves to block their chances. After a dull initial 10 minutes, Mancini’s band gained confidence and chances started to materialize for the Italians.
A nice give-and-go between Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne set the Neapolitan free to shot but his curling effort ended wide away from the target. The most beautiful thing in the first half was a Ciro Immobile magic trick to avoid a slide tackle from Okay Yokuslu. It was followed by a shot that hit the Turkish defensive wall.
The Azzurri hit the gas and goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir had to go above and beyond to deny Giorgio Chiellini’s header on 21 minutes with a superb save. Just past the half hour mark, Berardi served Immobile from the left, driving a header from the former Golden Boot that also failed to hit the target.
The first impression at half time was that Italy were on the right track to open a breach. Turkey’s only chance came on the counter but Gianluigi Donnarumma was well alert and pushed back with his fists a cross from Burak Yilmaz that could have become a threat.
Both coaches made a substitution after the restart: Cengiz Under replaced a disappointing Yusuf Yazici among the Turkish lines while Giovanni Di Lorenzo was sent in by coach Mancini to replace Alessandro Florenzi.
The good omens from the first half soon found a confirmation as Italy drew first blood on 52 minutes thanks to an impressive Berardi progression on the right hand side. The Sassuolo man dribbled past Umut Meras and crossed the ball in the middle of the box, forcing Juventus defender Merih Demiral to push it into his own net.
As expected, the goal galvanized the Azzurri. Both Locatelli and Spinazzola tested Cakir again and found him equal to the task. On 65 minutes, the Turkish goalkeeper showed some great reflexes as he pushed back another Spinazzola attempt but had no answer when Ciro Immobile pounced on the rebound and tapped the ball home for the Azzurri‘s second.
With Italy now in full control and the Turkish defense appearing dazed and confused, Insigne joined the party on 78 minutes, putting the finishing touch on a stunning one-touch combination involving the whole Azzurri front-line.
The last minutes were a walk in the park for the Azzurri as Mancini gave some playing time to Federico Chiesa, Andrea Belotti, and Federico Bernardeschi. Italy’s non-losing streak extended to 28 games, with 9 wins in a row and the same number of clean sheets. Plus, they made an overly strong statement on the path towards the Euro Final at Wembley. Can it get any better than this?
June 11, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group A
SCORERS: 53′ Demiral o.g., 66′ Immobile, 78′ Insigne
|TURKEY (4-1-4-1): Cakir; Celik, Soyuncu, Demiral, Meras; Yokuslu (65′ Kahveci), Tufan (65′ Ayhan); Karaman (77′ Dervisoglu), Calhanoglu, Yazici (46′ Under); Yilmaz (Gonuk, Bayindir, Tokoz, Antalyali, Kabak, Unal, Kokcu, Muldur) Coach: Gunes|
|ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi (46′ Di Lorenzo), Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli (74′ Cristante); Berardi (85’ Bernardeschi), Immobile (81’ Belotti), Insigne (81’ Chiesa) (Sirigu, Meret, Pessina, Emerson, Acerbi, Raspadori, Bastoni) Coach: Mancini|
REFEREE: Makkelie (Netherlands)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Soyuncu, Dervisoglu (T); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 3′