The Turkish national team will hope to prove bookmakers wrong when they file out for the opening match of the Euro 2020 against Italy on Friday evening at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
UEFA has drawn both teams alongside Switzerland and Wales in Group A of the tournament. Apart from the rich form of the Azzurri which has seen them go 27 matches with no defeat, Roberto Mancini’s men will have home advantage with16,000 fans.
Going by the records, Italy have never lost to Turkey in ten previous matches (W7 D3) and they would look to preserve that unbeaten run in this Euro 2020 opener.
Another record in favour of the Italians is that they have often gotten it right in all their previous opening matches at a Euro finals since 1980. They have suffered just one defeat in eight opening matches.
The reverse has been the case for Turkey who have lost their opening fixture in all four previous finals appearances.
Stars to watch
While both teams boast of decent players in their team, there would be greater attention on the likes of Inter Milan’s midfield tyro, Nicolo Barella. The 24-year-old Italian is set for his debut appearance at the Euros on Friday.
The midfielder provides balance to the 4-3-3 system or 3-5-2 that Mancini may adopt. Lazio hitman, Ciro Immobile is another key figure to look out for in the glory-chasing Italian side and he will be buoyed playing at his club’s home stadium. Immobile started and scored in Italy’s last friendly and should be chosen ahead of Andrea Belotti, who was Italy’s top-scorer during the Euro qualifiers, but recent struggles at Torino could mean starting on the bench.
For Turkey, they can bank on the talent of Caglar Soyuncu for stability in their defence. The Leicester City defender, one of several Turkish players making a considerable impact at overseas clubs, and he enjoyed a remarkable season with the Foxes, helping them win a first-ever FA Cup.
Veteran striker Burak Yilmaz is one of three Lille players from Turkey to keep a close eye on at Euro 2020. The three helped lift Lille to the Ligue 1 title ahead of PSG in the just-concluded season.
Head-to-head [past 5 meetings]
15/11/06 FRI Italy 1 – 1 Turkey
20/11/02 FRI Italy 1 – 1 Turkey
11/06/00 EUC Turkey 1 – 2 Italy
21/12/94 FRI Italy 3 – 1 Turkey
25/02/73 WQE Turkey 0 – 1 Italy
What the coaches say
Şenol Güneş, Turkey Manager: “The result we get in the first match is important; a draw or a win can cause confusion in the group. I hope so. I want to see our strength in the first match; even if we lose, it’s important to play well. I hope it’s going to be a great game, an enjoyable game … and that we win!”
Roberto Mancini, Italy Manager: “We must respect Turkey, they are a side full of talent. The opener is always difficult, and there will be plenty of emotions, but you can’t get too carried away. I don’t think there is an excess of enthusiasm: The fans can have that; we know who we are up against. The desire to be protagonists at this EURO is huge, but this is a match to be played with lightheartedness.
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