Euro 2020: Italy look the real deal after dominating Turkey in the opener

Friday's dominant 3-0 victory against Turkey has brought back Italy back into the conversation of serious title contenders.

Italian players celebrating the goal against Turkey; Credit: Twitter/@azzurri

Italy looks like serious title contenders after Friday’s Euro 2020 opening match victory against Turkey. Roberto Mancini’s side netted three times in the second half to announce their arrival at the big stage after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. The well drilled Italian team was dominant in every aspect of the game. They were clinical up front, solid at the back and quick to win back ball possession whenever they lost it. Unlike the previous Italian teams this side has right balance between youth and experience. The retirement of some of the legends like- Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli etc- was a blessing in disguise for the former Manchester City manager, as he could bring in a new set of talented youngsters. The Azzurri’s play with a 4-3-3 formation that is capable of going on attack and also defend collectively as a team.

Roberto Mancini took charge of the team in 2018 after they lost to Sweden in the World Cup qualifying play-offs. When he took charge of the team they were going through the worst phase in their footballing history. But the former Inter Milan manager managed to successfully bring them back into the conversation of title contenders in short time. Unlike the traditional Italian teams, this team is not too defensive minded as they have shown in the two warm-up matches before the tournament where they netted 11 times and conceded none. Meanwhile they scored 37 goals in their perfect qualifying campaign. What Mancini has successfully done is that, without compromising on the defensive solidity he has managed to score goals. As a result Italy hasn’t lost a match since their 1-0 loss to Portugal in 2018 and are on a 28 match unbeaten run. Mancini’s side is just two shy of Vittorio Pozzo’s record of 30.

A WELL DRILLED TEAM

Central defenders Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are the experienced campaigners in the side, there aren’t too many better center-back pairings in world football right now. Bonucci’s composure on the ball and ability to deliver quality passes from the back along with Chiellini’s experience of more than 100 international games allows the Italians to play out from the back. Even though they start games with a 4-3-3 formation they can easily transform into 3-2-5 while going on the attack, with one of the wing-backs- Florenzi or Spinazzola- joining the forwards, as seen in the match against Turkey.

Champions League winner Jorginho plays the holding midfielder’s role. Locatelli and Nicolo Barella played a more advanced role, both of them making runs to the penalty area whenever possible and quickly getting back to defend while losing ball possession. Locatelli has come in for injured Marco Verratti, who has been out with a knee injury. Although Verratti has been included in the 26-man squad, it is not clear when he will be fully fit. Berardi, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne formed the three-man forward line.

Immobile plays a slightly withdrawn role unlike in Lazio where he is the main striker, but that allows the players around him to excel and the goal scoring responsibilities are shared. Insigne mostly prefers to cut inside from the left, which creates space for Spinazzola on the left wing. Insigne is coming on the back of an impressive Serie A season netting 19 times and has continued that form to the Euros scoring Italy’s third goal of the match with his trademark right footed curler from the left side.

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Having a strong bench is another quality of this Italian side. Even the likes of Federico Chiesa and Bernardeschi started on the bench, seasoned campaigner Andrea Belotti is more than a handy option from the bench. Berardi starting ahead of Chiesa was a bit of a surprise for many, but that might be an indication that Mancini is likely to rotate his players over the course of the competition. 

TEAM’S WEAKNESS

Verratti’s injury might be a cause of concern as the team lacked creativity going forward in the first half. Apart from Insigne nobody looked capable of providing the creative spark. When they face bigger teams with a much more solid defence that spark might be needed. And because Italy plays with a high defensive line as seen against Turkey, teams having pacey attackers could punish them on the counterattack. Their final group game against Wales might be a good test for them, as Wales captain Gareth Bale is one of the fastest footballers on the planet.

Italy will play Switzerland in their next fixture on Wednesday before facing Wales in their final group match on June 20. They are expected to go through as group winners, if so, they will face the second placed team from Group C consisting of Austria, Netherlands, North Macedonia and Ukraine. Knockout stages are always a tricky affair, but as it is said, well begun is half done, and Italy seems to tick most of the boxes when it comes to getting the tag of serious title contenders.




WRITTEN BY
Sportslumo Desk

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