Football Features

‘Wales will be licking their lips’ – Five things learned as Italy beat Turkey in Euro 2020 opener

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:23, 11 June 2021

In a fun night of football, Italy thrashed Turkey 3-0 to kick-off Euro 2020 with an impressive win.

The victory made it nine straight victories with a clean sheet for the Italians; it was also the first-time that they had scored more than twice in a single game at a European Championships in their history. What did we learn?


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1. Juventus win it for Italy!

In typical fashion, a Juventus player broke the deadlock for Italy. Bagging the opening goal for the Azzuri and setting them on their way to victory. It wasn’t the neatest finish as the Juventino stuffed home a cross from Domenico Berardi with their chest, but they all count and there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time.

Of course, the one problem is that it wasn’t an Italian who scored, but the Turkish defender Merih Demiral. The centre-back plays for Juventus and is an accomplished stopped, but on this occasion was the unlucky man as Berardi’s cross was fizzed at him with tremendous speed. In truth he could do little as makeshift left-back Umut fell over at the feet of the Italian winger and allowed him a free hit.

Still, good for Juventus!

2. Midfield makes the magic

The Italian team isn’t one that is replete with star power. None of the three forwards, for instance, play for the Big Three. In fact the only Juve players in the starting XI are in defence and even then they are names of yesteryear on their last legs.

However one Italian unit that is absolutely top-class is their midfield. Jorginho is a passing genius, Nico Barella is a furious engine of passing and pressing, and with the magnificent Marco Verratti still recovering from injury the brilliant young Manuel Locatelli took his place.

Italy’s midfield was superb, the heartbeat of the win. They pressed so effectively that Turkey could do absolutely nothing in terms of counter-attacks. Short of whacking it over the midfield, anyway. Whenever they tried to pass it through the Italian midfield they were swamped and the ball was recycled to the Azzurri’s attack; often leading directly to a chance. Italy’s first and second goals came from Nico Barella playing key passes into the Turkish box.

With the midfield playing this well, you can’t rule Italy out against any opponent this tournament.

3. Turkey’s bus breaks down

We’ve all heard of a “parked bus” i.e. a team that just sits in front of their own defence launching minimal attacks. But even parked buses send two or three men forward at a time with an organised plan of how to hurt the opponent on the break.

Not Turkey, though. No! Turkey’s bus was sat in front of their own goal and may as well have broken down so reticent were they to actually try and counter-attack in any sort of functional way. Buruk Yilmaz was a one-man break in the first-half, Cengiz Under did the same thing in the second. They never broke in numbers with any sort of organisation and that made it so easy for Italy to pin them back and, eventually, break them down. Some adjustments needed before their next game.

“That was the best result for Wales,” said Rio Ferdinand during the BBC’s analysis. “They will be rubbing their hands together and licking their lips. [They] would have enjoyed Turkey looking so poor.”



4. Spinazzola surprise!

While Italy’s midfield was their best unit, their most standout player – beyond Ciro Immobile for getting a goal and an assist – was their left-back Leonardo Spinazzola. From the off he drew interest by virtue of his fantastically melodic name, and then his performance was pure heavy metal up and down the left-flank.

Right-footed left-backs are a rarity but Spinazzola was more than comfortable going down the outside and using his left-foot too. The left-back completed 3 dribbles, more than anyone else on the field and was a constant outlet on his flank. In fact it was his rapier shot that led directly to Italy’s second goal as Ciro Immobile tucked home the rebound and he even pulled off a superb chasedown block on Cengiz Under.

“I thought he was fantastic,” said Rio Ferdinand after the match. Saying that “Man Utd were lucky he came off injured [in their Europa League semi-final against Roma].”

5. A statement of intent

Italy were expected to beat Turkey today, but the manner of their victory – the performance they put on – was a true statement of intent as to their ambitions at Euro 2020. Roberto Mancini has set his team up so impressively. “They were impressive in everything they did,” said Alan Shearer post-match.

Italy were so ferocious all across the pitch. The way the team reacted to Giorgio Chiellini’s block on Buruk Yilmaz in the 93rd minute of the game when they were 3-0 up shows how much they valued and appreciated their clean sheet as much as any goal. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Spain beating Russia 4-1 at the start of Euro 2008. That game set Spain on their way to glory and Italy have that same vibe now. Their attitude should terrify their future opponents, as should their goal prowess.

Cesc Fabregas praised Ciro Immobile’s contribution, saying “the striker is the one that makes you win games. To have a striker in form it’s invaluable for this tournament.” Adding about the side as a whole; “they eat you alive.”

The Italian pressing is indeed a huge feature of their game and given they are currently 28 games unbeaten with two more winnable ties in this group; they could make the round of 16 ready to break a near 100-year-old record (the Italian side of the 1930’s went 30 matches unbeaten). Well, Fabregas said it best: “the way they look, Italy, [they are] a threat.”

Next up at Euro 2020

  • Wales vs. Switzerland, 14:00 – The Welsh will look to start hot and match Italy in Group A, but Switzerland are no pushovers.
  • Denmark vs. Finland, 17:00 – Denmark are on a roll and will look to squash a Finland side that haven’t won in six games.
  • Belgium vs. Russia, 20:00 – One of the tournament favourites, Belgium will look to start fast and get Romelu Lukaku scoring in order to bolster their chances of finally winning a tournament.

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