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Italy impress in Euro 2020 opener

For a tournament delayed by a year, the opener to Euro 2020 was filled with anticipation for everyone. For Italy though, it was greater than for most. Italy need to impress in Euro 2020 after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But they’re definitely making up for lost time after a slick 3-0 victory over Turkey in Rome.

The wait to set the record straight has been painful. It’s been 5 years since an Italian team graced an international tournament, and their absence has been felt.

But this means they’ve also flown under the radar among pundits and journalists. Their lack of exposure in recent years means they’ve not been included in the conversation about who can win this tournament.

After the manner of victory against a much-fancied Turkey side, people are definitely now sitting up and taking notice.

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Mancini’s long rebuild

The healing process after missing out on Russia 2018 has been a long one. The usual questions and introspection were in full flow by the time Roberto Mancini was called upon to turn the tide back in the Azzuri’s favour.

And what a turnaround the team has had under his leadership. A run of 27 matches unbeaten – including victory in all 10 Euro 2020 qualifiers – has instilled a new belief in this young, resurgent Italy side.

Turkey patiently dismantled

Many considered Turkey a team with real potential for this tournament. But after the first half ended goalless against Italy, it was difficult to see why. Sure, they were compact and defended with discipline. But the lack of ideas in midfield, and creativity in the final third, made it easy for Italy to pick them apart.

But Italy were patient in the face of Turkish discipline. The crowd were behind them. And how great it was to hear them! They were raucous in the Stadio Olimpico after more than a year of empty stadiums.

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They worked with tireless energy, patience and discipline. Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi were impressive down the wings, supported by Alessandro Florenzi and the immaculate Leonardo Spinazzola.

Turkey were resolute for the most part. But once Merih Demiral turned the ball into his own net to hand Italy the lead, the shackles were off and the floodgates opened.

“There’s still a long way to go and there are a number of good teams in this tournament. It was important to get off to a good start. We produced an excellent performance against a team that wasn’t as weak as they seemed.”

Italy coach Roberto Mancini tries to remain realistic about Italy’s Euro 2020 chances after victory over Turkey.

And impressive squad with more to come

The attacking intent of this younger Italian side has been the most impressive thing to see. The presence of the ageless Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini balances the team brilliantly.

And to think, we still haven’t seen the pivotal Marco Verrati in midfield yet. Nor the exciting talent of Federico Chiesa. The fact that Italy managed to impress in this Euro 2020 opener without them is encouraging.

They haven’t achieved anything yet. But Italy’s hammering of Turkey is a huge stride towards making up for the heartache of missing out in 2018. Europe – and the world – eagerly await their next games to see just how good they are.

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© Mike Barclay at The Football Diary 2020