Dominant Italy breeze past Turkey in impressive return to the big stage
Roberto Mancini's men swept aside Turkey to kick off Euro 2020 in style
In the end, it was a canter. Italy, after five long years without major tournament football, sealed their return to the big stage with an emphatic showing in the opener of Euro 2020. Their 3-0 win against Turkey in Rome was richly deserved: a performance which, following on from their impressive qualifying campaign, only adds weight to the theory that Roberto Mancini has assembled a side capable of winning this tournament.
Prior to kick-off, few would have argued that the Azzurri have been rejuvenated since Mancini took charge in the aftermath of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. All ten qualifiers for this tournament were won, contributing to an impressive 27-game unbeaten streak.
Turkey, though, were suppose to represent a much sterner challenge than some of their recent opposition. An exuberant young side with an attack spearheaded by the in-form veteran Burak Yılmaz, they had also impressed in qualifying: losing only once, giving up just three goals and taking four points from France along the way.
Italy never looked fazed, however. From the opening seconds, they dominated possession, pressing feverishly as soon as it was surrendered. Turkey showed little in the way of ambition, rarely straying beyond the halfway line in the first 45 minutes as Yılmaz cut an increasingly isolated figure.
Their willingness to sit deep and wait for an opportunity to spring a counter attack stifled Italy's attack. Ciro Immobile was limited to a couple of half-chances from distance; Lorenzo Insigne failed to wrap his foot around the ball when he found himself in a rare pocket of space inside the area; Giorgio Chiellini's header from a corner drew an acrobatic save from Uğurcan Çakır.
The breakthrough came after the interval. Domenico Berardi burst into the penalty area and hammered a cross into the body of Merih Demiral, who was powerless to prevent it ricocheting into his goal. Turkey's stubborn resistance broken, Italy flooded forward, creating overlaps and pockets of space deep within their opponent's half that hadn't existed in the first half.
A second seemed inevitable, the only surprise was that it took 13 minutes to arrive. Immobile pouncing to tuck away the rebound after Leonardo Spinazzola's effort was saved by Çakır. Victory assured, it was cruise control from there, Şenol Güneş' side rarely entering the final third, let alone carrying anything resembling a serious goal threat.
Insigne applied the gloss with little over to ten minutes with the goal his tireless running and all-round performance deserved. Çakır's attempt to pick out a pass to a teammate intercepted, a wave of white shirts surged forward, quickly working the ball to the tiny Neapolitan, who swept home.
As impressive as this may have been, it is, obviously, a little too early after just one game of the tournament to be declaring Italy European champions-elect. It was though, especially after the 18 months leading up to this night, the kind of display which will vindicate those who have tipped them to go a long way over the next few weeks. Perhaps this Azzurri side lacks the star quality of some of its predecessors. There was, though, for the first time in a long while, something unmistakably Italian about this showing. After going a few years without them, it's good to have Italy - this Italy - back at the party.