Euro 2020: Italy Humiliate Turkey In Opening Game With 3 – 0 Beating

Report By Matt Barlow

Just gone five o’clock near the Ponte Duca D’Aosta and along the banks of the River Tiber the first sights and sounds of a summer tournament football were brewing.

Faces were painted and flags were flying. If not flying then worn as capes, bandanas or sarongs by the ticketed few, drawn to the Olympic Stadium by the force of anticipation, hours before kick-off.

There were cowboy hats and Mohawk wigs in Italian colours. There were air-horns, the unmistakable sound of a vuvuzela, sirens and a helicopter circling overhead. Flares smouldered, songs were sung and cold Italian lager was being drained from plastic glasses.

A noisy cluster of Turkey fans chose to accessorise their red replica shirts with plastic souvenir centurion’s helmets, complete with face guards and a fetching red crest of imitation feathers.

This was how Euro 2020 came blinking into life in Rome. One year late. A tournament that might never have been. A tournament, some still argue, should never be.

But here it is. Football is delivering another staging post to more normal world. Let the first games in a post-Covid world begin. Bring a face covering and don’t forget to sanitise.

Italy got is all rolling in style. The pace and movement of Roberto Mancini’s fresh and exciting team left Turkey’s defenders unable to recall the basics of track and trace as they conceded three goals in the second half.

Centre-half Merih Demiral turned the first into his own net from a firmly hit cross by Domenico Berardi before Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insignie stretched the lead. They are now unbeaten in 28 games. They have not conceded in the last nine of them and this was the first time Italy have ever scored three in a match at the European Championship finals.

‘A wonderful evening,’ declared Mancini. ‘Important to get off to a good start. We produced an excellent performance against a team who are not as weak as they seemed. We deserve great credit for stopping them from playing. We were trying to entertain the fans here in the stadium and those watching at home.’

The teams kicked off with the atmosphere still crackling from the anthems and smoke lingering from the opening ceremony fireworks. There was a military band, oversized balloons and drummers suspended from the roof by wires but the pre-match show was stolen by star tenor Andrea Bocelli and his soul-stirring performance of Nessun Dorma.

It would have rendered anyone old enough to recall Italia 90 on the brink of tears. Maybe the sheer emotion overwhelmed Italy in the first half. Mancini’s side have won back the hearts of the nation having banished memories of the World Cup disaster in 2018. The famously pink daily sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport even turned its front page blue on Friday.

‘We are all blue,’ roared the headline above a heart-shaped image of all the players. Then they went and played in white, for some reason. Turkey were nominally the home team but the marketing department must have won the argument on the Azzurri’s big day.

Jorginho dominated the midfield and Italy moved the ball with slick sequences of passing. Turkey were squeezed back into their own third but they survived until half time. Insigne fired wide and captain Giorgio Chiellini saw a powerful header from a corner turned over by Turkey’s goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir. Immobile headed another difficult chance wide, straining for power and losing direction.

The energy pulsing through the stadium at kick-off was slowly turning into a mild tension. Insigne, looking to curl a shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area, pulled his effort straight into the gloves of Cakir. There were increasingly desperate appeals for penalties for handball, the third when a cross by the excellent Leonardo Spinazzola struck Zeki Celik on the hand was long and loud.

Dutch referee Danny Makkelie waited for the video check and played on. The disappointment vanished when Italy broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half. The famously pink daily sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport even turned its front page blue on Friday. ‘We are all blue,’ roared the headline above a heart-shaped image of all the players. Then they went and played in white, for some reason. Turkey were nominally the home team but the marketing department must have won the argument on the Azzurri’s big day.

Jorginho dominated the midfield and Italy moved the ball with slick sequences of passing. Turkey were squeezed back into their own third but they survived until half time. Insigne fired wide and captain Giorgio Chiellini saw a powerful header from a corner turned over by Turkey’s goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir. Immobile headed another difficult chance wide, straining for power and losing direction.

The energy pulsing through the stadium at kick-off was slowly turning into a mild tension. Insigne, looking to curl a shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area, pulled his effort straight into the gloves of Cakir. There were increasingly desperate appeals for penalties for handball, the third when a cross by the excellent Leonardo Spinazzola struck Zeki Celik on the hand was long and loud.

Dutch referee Danny Makkelie waited for the video check and played on. The disappointment vanished when Italy broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second half.

Matt Barlow reports for MailOnline

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