Few had Roberto Mancini’s side among the favorites to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy, but bookmakers may well be adjusting their odds as the Italians looked several leagues above their opponents on a humid night in Rome.
An own goal from Merih Demiral and strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne gave Italy a deserved victory, though Turkey was certainly underwhelming given the talent, albeit inexperienced, at coach Senol Gunes’ disposal.
Sterner tests certainly lay ahead for Italy, but the opening game of this postponed tournament was worth the wait for the Azzurri.
For much of the game, it looked as though Andrea Bocelli’s stirring performance of Nessun Dorma during the opening ceremony would be the only highlight of the night, as both teams struggled to find any rhythm in the early exchanges.
The first chance of note in a drab opening half of football came as Insigne played a neat one-two with Italy teammate Domenico Berardi, but the Napoli forward skewed his shot wide when well positioned in the penalty area.
Italy was certainly dominating, but found clear-cut chances hard to come by.
Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini’s header from a corner forced an acrobatic save from Turkish goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir, though his effort did appear to be going over the crossbar.
Despite lacking in experience, Turkey’s young and talented team came into Euro 2020 with high expectations. At 35 years old, captain Burak Yilmaz — fresh from helping Lille win Ligue 1 — is eight years older than any other player in the squad.
The striker struggled to get into the game early on, regularly finding himself isolated as Turkey managed just 37% possession in the first half. In fact, Yilmaz was forced to spend as much time in his own penalty area helping to defend wave after wave of Italian attacks than he did inside the opposition box.
Fortunately, the game livened up in the early stages of the second half as Italy emerged from the dressing room with a far greater intensity.
It took just eight minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it was Turkey defender Demiral who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, deflecting the ball into his own net from Domenico Berardi’s low cross.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, even though it was only filled to a quarter of its 70,000 capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, erupted and it wasn’t long before Italian fans were celebrating number two.
Berardi was once again at the heart of it, firing the ball to the far post for Leonardo Spinazzola, whose blocked shot fell perfectly at the feet of Immobile to slot the ball into the far corner.
Italy was in cruise control, as it had been for the majority of the game, and Insigne put the icing on the cake with just 10 minutes remaining.
Cakir’s wayward pass allowed Immobile to eventually feed Insigne inside the box and the diminutive winger made no mistake with an emphatic first-time finish.
Italy will have certainly taken many people by surprise with such a commanding performance — including tonight’s unsuspecting opponents — and has no doubt put the other 23 nations on notice.
On Saturday, Switzerland meet Wales — the other two teams in Group A — while Denmark face Finland and Russia play Belgium in Group B.