After a year-long delay, Euro 2020 kicked off on Friday in Rome with the first match of Group A between Turkey and Italy. It ended the longest delay between major tournaments in soccer as Euro 2020 was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Italy came into Friday’s showdown against Turkey on a 25-match unbeaten streak. However, they were without the services of midfielder Marco Verratti, who is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered with Paris Saint-Germain a month ago.
Italy dominated the first half with 13 shots compared to zero for Turkey, and 64% of the possession.
Despite outperforming Turkey, Italy could not get on the scoresheet. Centre-back Giorgio Chiellini had a header saved by Ugurcan Cakir in the 27th minute. Italy found many other chances to score, but could not convert due to the stellar efforts of Cakir, who is the goalkeeper for Turkisk Super Lig club Trabzonspor.
Lorenzo Insigne, a small but speedy winger for Italy, found room in the Turkish backline to create chances for Italy, but his opportunities were either cleared away or saved by Cakir.
One major storyline of the first half was the implementation of the more relaxed handball rules. There were three instances of a possible handball for Turkey, but VAR denied Italy a penalty kick all three times. This is an aspect to watch for the next 50 matches of this competition as the opening match established a precedent of
Italy came out of the halftime break pushing for the breakthrough goal.
They found their goal in the 53rd minute as Domenico Berardi, who is a winger for Serie A club Sassuolo, placed a cross right in the middle of the penalty box. Turkish centre-back Merih Demiral, who plays for Serie A club Juventus, couldn’t clear the ball and the cross deflected past Cakir for an own goal to open the scoring of the match and Euro 2020.
Italy continued to dominate possession and push through Turkey’s zone to find a second goal that would all but ensure victory.
They found their insurance goal as in the 66th minute, wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola’s shot was saved by Cakir, but the rebound was put away by striker Ciro Immobile to give Italy a 2-0 lead.
Cakir had a valiant effort throughout the match, trying to keep a Turkish squad struggling to gain possession in the match. However, in the 79th minute, he gave the ball away to Italy in Turkey’s own zone. Italy’s quick passing set up Insigne with a golden opportunity to score after being denied so often in the first half. Insigne smashed the ball past Cakir to give Italy a 3-0 lead that cemented three points for Italy to open Euro 2020.
Italy finished the match outshooting Turkey 24-3 with a 8-0 difference for shots on target. Italy finished with 61% possession.
Italy now extends their unbeaten streak to 26 matches and are soaring in confidence in their first major action since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Their midfield dominated the match and they were aggressive on the attack, a quality Italy has lacked over the past decade.
Turkey, who is the youngest team in terms of age at Euro 2020, started off their Euro 2020 campaign poorly, getting dismantled 3-0 by Italy. They have matches against Wales and Switzerland to push their way to the round of 16, but they have to make major adjustments if they are going to rebound from this opener.
Group A of Euro 2020 will continue on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST with Wales battling Switzerland.