Dark horses Turkey to shock Italy in Euros opener
The rescheduled 2020 UEFA European Championships finally get underway a year later than intended, and it will kick off on Friday night in Rome where dark horses Turkey will take on Roberto Mancini's Italy, who will effectively be playing at home for all of their Group A matches. In his second spell in charge of Ay-Yıldızlılar, head coach Şenol Güneş will be looking to emulate the run he had at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he led the nation to the semi-final stage. Gli Azzurri have certainly improved under Mancini's auspices, but are still somewhat of an unknown quantity and won't have an easy passage through to the knockout phases. Read our preview here:
Man the Buraks
Güneş will be able to call upon a supremely solid back four for the very first challenge of the tournament, with the pairing in the middle of Merih Demiral and Çaglar Söyüncü more than capable of nullifying Italy's front three, and have the ability to play it forwards to the five-man midfield to do battle in the second third of the pitch. The trio in the middle are exceptionally well-balanced in terms of skillsets. Okay Yokuşlu was a stand-out performer in a doomed West Bromwich Albion side during his loan spell, and will rove around behind the others to cut out the space in between the lines. Hakan Çalhanoğlu will get close to Burak Yılmaz as they transition quickly to the attack, ensuring the veteran Lille hitman isn't isolated as sole striker. Additionally, they are both superb free-kick takers, and winning fouls high up the field should ring alarm bells in the Italian camp.
Mancini is blessed with a bevy of excellent midfielders and wide players in his squad, and will also seek to squeeze perhaps one last major finals out of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonadro Bonucci. Gianluigi Donnarumma, who could sign for PSG this summer, will have the reassurance of that solidity in front of him, and it's unlikely that they'll be penetrated too often by their opponents, given the propensity to sit reasonably deep to avoid being caught out by the press. Elsewhere, it's anyone's guess who'll line up ahead of the defence, though Marco Verratti could be a doubt for the opener. That might leave a space for a very different individual to take his place - Nicolò Barella is perhaps the one amongst the roster who can really do damage in between the lines. Up top, Ciro Immobile has been superb for five straight seasons at club level for Lazio, but has rarely, if ever, managed to translate that to being an effective striker internationally. His country's progress could hinge on either his or Andrea Belotti's efficacy in front of goal.
As is typical, Italy are never far away from being one of the favourites to lift the trophy, and they have the quality and depth in certain areas to give credence to that claim. However, neither Immobile nor Belotti have lived up to the billing thus far in blue, and Turkey have all the tools to make plenty of positive headlines this summer, starting on Friday. bet365 have them at 7.00 simply to win, which looks like ridiculously long odds for who they have on paper.
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