Italy will face stronger opposition than Turkey at Euro 2020 but a commanding 3-0 win in the tournament’s opening match in front of their own fans on Friday suggests the Azzurri have all the ingredients to go far.
The outcome was fitting reward for Roberto Mancini’s side who stretched their unbeaten run to 28 games with an impressive performance while also keeping another clean sheet, their 12th in the last 13 games.
Mancini, who took over after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, has transformed a dull and predictable-looking side into a potent unit whose three-pronged attack thrives alongside a creative midfield and formidable defence.
Mancini has abandoned Italy’s conservative style of safety first and carved out an adventurous outfit whose approach based on crisp, one-touch passing secured 10 straight wins in qualifying, with 37 goals scored and four conceded. A 4-0 win over the Czech Republic in their final warm-up last Sunday turned out to be a taste of what was to come at the Olympic Stadium as Mancini fielded an unchanged team against the Turks and his men delivered again.
Italy kicked off the European Championship in emphatic style on Friday as they delivered a commanding performance to sweep past toothless Turkey 3-0 in the Stadio Olimpico and stamp their early authority on Group A. “It was important to start well here in Rome and it is a joy for us and for all the Italians,” said coach Roberto Mancini. “We produced a good performance and I think we satisfied everyone, for the fans and all the Italians watching. (But) there are six games to go and there are a lot of good teams.”
Switzerland and Wales, who meet in the group’s second game in Baku on Saturday, always knew Italy were the group favourites but the size of their task has suddenly looked somewhat bigger. Mancini had told his players they should enjoy themselves and seek to entertain and that was exactly what they did for a jubilant home crowd.
There was only gloom in the visiting camp as veteran coach Senol Gunes, who led Turkey to third place at the 2002 World Cup, apologised for the performance. “I was expecting a better game, and I am disappointed and we are sorry,” he said. “Italy totally controlled the game.” Defender Umut Meras and forward Kenan Karaman said the team would put on a better display in their remaining Group A games against Wales and Switzerland. “We are really sorry about our performance tonight,” forward Karaman said. “Italy were technically superior to us. But it’s a tournament and we have to focus on our next two games.”
Having scored three goals in one European Championship match for the first time, Italy‘s new-found confidence and commitment to attacking football looks likely to bear more fruit. They will head into their remaining Group A matches against Switzerland and Wales at the same venue buoyed by a display which delighted the home fans who will crave more of the same.
On June 16, Italy face Switzerland in Rome and Turkey take on Wales in Baku in the second round of Group A games.
Photo Ciro Immobile (L) of Italy celebrates with teammates after scoring the 2-0 lead during the UEFA EURO 2020 group A preliminary round soccer match between Turkey and Italy at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, Italy, 11 June 2021. EPA-EFE/Ettore Ferrari / POOL