Few had Roberto Mancini’s team among the favorites to win the Henri Delaunay trophy, but bookies could adjust their odds as the Italians looked several leagues above their opponents on a sultry night in Rome.
An own goal from Merih Demiral and goals from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne gave Italy a deserved victory, although Turkey certainly wasn’t overwhelming given the inexperienced talent of coach Senol Gunes.
Sterner Tests were certainly imminent for Italy, but the opening game of this postponed tournament was worth the wait Azzurri.
For much of the game, it looked like Andrea Bocelli’s sweeping performance by Nessun Dorma during the opening ceremony would be the only highlight of the evening as both teams struggled to find the rhythm in the early substitutions.
The first significant chance in a dreary first half of football came when Insigne played a neat one-two with Italian team-mate Domenico Berardi, but the Napoli striker twisted his shot far when he was well positioned in the penalty area.
Italy dominated, but found it difficult to find clear chances.
Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini’s header from a corner forced Turkish goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to make an acrobatic save, even though his shot appeared to go over the bar.
Despite a lack of experience, the young and talented team from Turkey entered Euro 2020 with high expectations. At 35, captain Burak Yilmaz, who just helped Lille win Ligue 1, is eight years older than any other player in the squad.
The striker struggled to get into the game early and found himself regularly in isolation as Turkey only had 37% possession in the first half. In fact, Yilmaz had to spend as much time in his own box defending a wave of Italian attacks than he did in the opponent’s box.
Fortunately, the game picked up early in the second half when Italy emerged from the dressing room with much greater intensity.
It took only eight minutes to break the impasse and it was Turkish defender Demiral who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, directing the ball into his own net after a low cross from Domenico Berardi.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico erupted, despite only filling a quarter of its 70,000 capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, and it wasn’t long before Italian fans celebrated number two.
Berardi was again in the thick of it, blasting the ball against the far post for Leonardo Spinazzola, whose shot landed perfectly in front of Immobile’s feet to push the ball into the far corner.
Italy was in cruise control like for most of the game, and Insigne put the icing on the cake just 10 minutes before the end.
Cakir’s idiosyncratic pass allowed Immobile to eventually feed Insigne in the penalty area, and the tiny winger made no mistake with a forceful first finish.
Italy will surely have surprised a lot of people with such a sovereign performance – including tonight’s unsuspecting opponents – and undoubtedly drew the attention of the other 23 nations.
Switzerland will face Wales – the other two teams in Group A – on Saturday, while Denmark face Finland and Russia face Belgium in Group B.