Turkey 0-3 Italy: Commanding Azzurri return to the big time with historic victory
The Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have since rebuilt under Roberto Mancini, who appears to have transformed them into a credible force that dealt with one of the competition’s supposed dark horses with relative ease.
Not that it was all plain sailing, however. Andrea Bocelli’s pre-match rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ – or ‘let no one sleep’ in English – was seemingly not heeded amid a dour first half, though one flashpoint just before the interval saw Italy denied a penalty.
Mancini’s side eventually opened the scoring soon after half-time as Juventus defender Merih Demiral scored an own goal and, given the lack of threat posed by Turkey, subsequent strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne were probably not even necessary.
Turkey relied on counter-attacks 26 per cent more than the average in qualifying, according to Stats Perform’s Playing Styles model, and their deep set-up contributed to a cagey opening.
But Italy started to probe with greater intent and saw Insigne shoot just after a one-two with Immobile in the 17th minute, before Giorgio Chiellini – now the oldest outfielder to ever start a major tournament game for the Azzurri – drew a stunning save from Ugurcan Cakir with a powerful header.
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Turkey were then arguably fortunate not to concede a penalty just before half-time, VAR deeming there to be no clear error when Zeki Celik handled Leonardo Spinazzola’s cross.
Although Cengiz Under was introduced at the break, Turkey’s gameplan showed no change and Italy deservedly made the breakthrough in the 53rd minute as Domenico Berardi left Umut Meras on his backside and smashed the ball across goal, with Demiral diverting it into his own net.
Cakir could not hold on to Spinazzola’s shot and Immobile was on hand to coolly tap in the rebound to make in 2-0 just past the hour.
And Insigne wrapped things up 11 minutes from time, curling home after being teed up by Immobile as the Azzurri netted three times in a single game for the first time in European Championship finals history.
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