By the end of this match, the outcome seemed inevitable, but it took until early in the second half for Italy finally to turn the dominance they had shown from the first whistle of the EURO 2020 opening match into the goals that delivered an emphatic 3-0 victory over Turkey.
The result marks Italy out immediately as serious contenders to lift the trophy at Wembley on 11th July and sends Turkey into their second group match against Wales in Baku next Wednesday with an urgent need for goals as well as points.
Meanwhile, Leonardo Spinazzola (€5.5m), Ciro Immobile (€10.0m) and Lorenzo Insigne (8.5m) all scored at least eight points and put themselves on the radar for Matchday 2 transfers-in, and also caused some difficult questions for those who captained them.
Italy kept the ball almost throughout the encounter and when Burak Yilmaz (€8.0m) finally threatened to open the visitors’ account in the dying seconds Giorgio Chiellini‘s (€6.0m) determined block preserved the clean sheet for the Azzurri’s rearguard to the delight of UEFA EURO 2020 Fantasy managers, many of whom had invested in more than one of their assets.
Fireworks, flying performers and Nessun Dorma had heralded the start of the delayed EURO 2020 tournament in Rome as Italian and Turkish fans roared their teams into the historic arena of the Olympic Stadium. The sound and fury of the opening ceremonies soon gave way to a siege of the Turkish goal that lasted virtually throughout the first 45 minutes.
As Italy’s control over the match gradually increased so did the numbers they massed in and around the penalty area. First they raided with four, then probed for an opening with six and near half-time veteran centre-back Chiellini left Yilmaz to look after himself and was charging forward trying to be the extra man to help make the vital first breakthrough.
Half-time was reached with only some long range sighters and a couple of optimistic penalty appeals to show for Italy’s constant pressing, but on 53 minutes the first goal of the tournament eventually arrived.
It was also the first own goal in any opening match at the Euros as Domenico Berardi (€6.0m), a regular raider down Turkey’s right hand side, made room just inside the area for a chest-high cross that defender Merih Demiral (€5.0m) couldn’t avoid deflecting back past goalkeeper Ugurcan Çakir (€4.5m).
Berardi was the instigator once again 13 minutes later when his chipped cross found popular fantasy choice Spinazzola marauding into the area as he had done so often in the first hour.
The left-back worked the ball onto his right foot and delivered a thunderous shot that Çakir did well to keep out one-handed, but he couldn’t deny Immobile from the rebound, the striker Lazio striker doing well to adjust his weight and position for a firm side-foot across the keeper and into the net.
Berardi was also the foundation of the hosts’ third and final goal on the night, intercepting a poor pass from Cakir in the 79th minute as Turkey became increasingly tired and ragged on a warm Rome evening where all that was on offer was constant chasing of an Italian side revelling in the confidence manager Roberto Mancini has shown in them.
Berardi slipped the ball to his left and moments later Immobile turned assister as he ushered the ball into the path of Insigne who made no mistake with a right foot curler around the keeper.
Berardi was substituted late on after receiving a kick on his calf, joining starting right back Alessandro Florenzi (€6.0m) on the sidelines after he was replaced by Giovanni Di Lorenzo (€5.0m) at half-time amidst concerns over a muscle injury.
Turkey made some midfield substitutions with a quarter of the match remaining to try to gain some traction in the game, but nothing they tried could prevent Italy from steamrollering them and chasing a fourth even as the seconds ticked away.
Manager Senol Gunes must always have known this first challenge was their toughest group stage assignment, but he will now have a lot of work to do to restore confidence and get his team onto the front foot before walking out to face Gareth Bale and company.
Turkey: Çakir; Çelik, Demiral, Söyüncu, Meras; Yokuslu (Kahveci 65); Karaman (Dervisoglu 76), Tufan (Ayhan 64), Yazici (Ünder 45), Çalhanoglu; Yilmaz.
Italy: Donnarumma, Chiellini, Bonucci, Spinazzola, Florenzi (Di Lorenzo 45), Jorginho, Locatelli (Cristante 74), Barella, Insigne (Chiesa 81), Berardi (Bernardeschi 85), Immobile (Belotti 81)
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