Italy will hope their excellent record at the Stadio Olimpico can propel them towards Euro 2020 glory in Roberto Mancini’s first tournament as coach, with a tricky test against Turkey first up for the competition’s curtain-raiser on Friday.
It has been all change for Italy since their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, with Mancini installed as Gian Piero Ventura’s replacement and tasked with restoring the Azzurri’s reputation.
What they hope will help is the fact all three of their group games – and a quarter-final – will be played at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where they have never lost in eight matches at major tournaments, while the Azzurri were one of just two teams along with Belgium to win all of their 10 qualifiers.
Of course, Italy wrapped up their qualifying campaign almost two years ago, with these finals pushed back 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Mancini has vowed to do the country proud after a difficult time as they look to claim a first European Championship since 1968.
In an open letter to fans, he wrote: “Sport in these moments is an essential tool of our life. It can help us feel better. Never before have we so badly needed it.
“Our national team is aware of representing a fantastic and determined people, and for this reason I, together with the staff and the guys who take the field, will use all the minutes of this event to honour the country that we represent.
“They will be moments of joy that will make us forget the past year for just a moment.”
June 10, 2021
Players to watch
Italy – Jorginho
While he will not necessarily be the man tasked with putting the ball in the net – unless Italy get a penalty – Jorginho performs a crucial function for Italy, as his role as a conduit in possession is essential to how Mancini’s team play. If he has a difficult game, the chances are the Azzurri will struggle by extension.
Turkey – Hakan Calhanoglu
Although Italy will be favourites here, Turkey should not be underestimated. Possessing the youngest squad at the Euros, they are a vibrant and technically gifted bunch. Arguably encapsulating those traits better than anyone else in the team is Calhanoglu. The Milan midfielder offers almost guaranteed creativity, with the most chances created in Serie A in 2020-21, as well as with nine assists.