Turkey 0 – Italy 3
Italy exited the opening match of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, which was held on Friday night in Rome, as acceptable contenders for the title. Their well-coordinated pressing match exhausted the Turks and trailed with three goals in the second half – the Azzurri’s biggest return in a European Championship game.
The disappointing and overly defensive Turkish side barely got a chance to score. Unfortunately for the rest of the group, Italy is now unbeaten in 28 matches since September 2018.
With only 16,000 spectators in the stands, Stadio Olimpico wasn’t exactly an exciting cauldron and Turkey didn’t come to enhance the atmosphere. Their tactic was to keep nine men behind the ball and hope for a counterattack with their powerful 35-year-old striker and captain Burak Yilmaz. Turkey has a lot to offer, but its veteran coach Senol Gunes didn’t trust them to try it here.
By contrast, Italy in recent years has joined the doctrine of the world’s leading teams, playing an offensive pressure match in the opponent’s half. They have mastered the pressing aspect better, always stealing the ball for Turkey within five seconds. But as young Neapolitan Lorenzo Insigne could see a distance between the lines, Italy lacked a world-class creative player capable of opening the ranks of the Turks. The first half was anti-climate – overshadowed, in fact, by former tenor Andrea Bocelli’s performance of Puccini’s “Nesun Dorma,” a return to the 1990 World Cup in Italy when Luciano Pavarotti memorably sang it.
Finally, in the 53rd minute, Italian winger Domenico Berardi, who was playing poorly, advanced into the Turkey penalty area, and hit a cross. Midfielder Merih Demiral wasn’t skillful enough to get out of the way and the ball bounced off his chest and into the net. It was the first European Championship to open with a special purpose – and it was the start of monotonous football up to that point.
But then Italy reaped the benefits that often accrue to a team pressing the pass: the opponent, tired of chasing the ball, especially on a hot Roman night, and frustrated with going down, begins to leave the spaces open. In the 66th minute, an Italian pass split Turkey’s defense, Italian left-back Leonardo Spinazzola got a good shot, goalkeeper Ogurkan Kakir did well to take it out, and Italian striker Ciro Immobile scored the rebound.
The Romanian fans chanted his name, a reminder of the benefit that the nine teams playing matches in their country will have in this tournament with its unprecedented format of use of stadiums across the continent.
Once the Italians were leading 2-0, they had no difficulties holding onto possession through their skilled players Insigne, Jorginho and Sardinian youngster Nicolo Parilla. At times in the second half, Italy looked more like a good Spanish team than the old Azzurri. In the 78th minute an unusual pass from Cacher was intercepted, and Immobile found Insigne completely unmarked, who got the goal he deserved – after which he was promptly replaced by coach Roberto Mancini, who knows he needs to keep him refreshed until the dangerous end of the tournament. Competition.
With home matches against Switzerland and Wales looming, Italy can hardly fail to qualify for the Round of 16 now, given that three out of the four teams will join four of the six groups.
The Turks were empty of ideas and had no menacing shot throughout the match. On the rare occasions they have come forward, they have been silenced by Juventus’s old defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, leaving the 22-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the most mellow of the big matches. Turkey can still pass easily, but their boss Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ardent soccer player, was hoping to become more patriotic The capital of this team.