Saturday, November 27, 2021

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Euro 2020: Italy, Turkey open continental fiesta

Uefa Euro 2020 kicks off in Rome as Italy – one of 11 host countries – take on Turkey in a tantalizing opening round of Group A games.

The Azzurri have never lost to Turkey in ten previous matches (W7 D3) and have suffered only one defeat in their eight opening matches at a EURO final tournament since 1980 (W3 D4) – 3-0 against the Netherlands in 2008.

Turkey have qualified for four previous EURO final tournaments and reached the knockout stages twice – although they have lost their opening fixture in all four previous finals appearances, and have managed only one Matchday 1 goal, against Italy in 2000 where they lost 2-1.

This is the teams’ second meeting in a EURO final tournament. Dino Zoff’s Italy were 2-1 winners in their opening fixture at UEFA EURO 2000 thanks to goals from Antonio Conte – a spectacular overhead kick – and a Filippo Inzaghi penalty.

The sides’ only other EURO fixtures came in qualifying for the 1964 event, Italy winning 6-0 at home – Alberto Orlando scoring four times, his only international goals, and Gianni Rivera twice – and 1-0 away.

Turkey played three warm-up games prior to UEFA EURO 2020, extending their unbeaten run to six matches by beating Azerbaijan 2-1 in Alanya, drawing 0-0 with Guinea in Antalya and prevailing 2-0 against Moldova in the German town of Paderborn.

Italy made it eight successive victories – all with clean sheets – as they defeated San Marino 7-0 in Cagliari and the Czech Republic 4-0 in Bologna in their two pre-tournament friendlies. Roberto Mancini’s side are now unbeaten in 27 internationals (W22 D5) since going down 1-0 to Portugal in Lisbon in the UEFA Nations League on 10 September 2018.

Gaetano Castrovilli, who won the second of his two caps against San Marino, 18 months after his debut, has replaced the injured Lorenzo Pellegrini in the squad.

Among the seven Italy players selected for both UEFA EURO 2016 and this tournament are skipper Giorgio Chiellini, who is appearing in his fourth successive EURO final tournament, and Leonardo Bonucci and Salvatore Sirigu, who are both involved in their third.

Turkey coach Senol Gunes said: “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 of Italy said: “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. We can do it!”

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