Five years after its last appearance in major competitions, Italy is back on the scene again, as it faces Turkey tonight at the Olympic Stadium in Rome in Group A, in the opening of the European Football Championship (Euro 2020).
Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in a national sporting tragedy for the four-time world champion.
But since coach Roberto Mancini took charge, he has built an attractive team, and enters the tournament with the ambition of reaching the final in London, 5 years after losing on penalties to Germany in the quarter-finals of “Euro 2016”.
Expectations rose quickly in the country, and this can be understood after Mancini’s team went unbeaten 27 games in an extended streak since September 2018, and showed its continued development with a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic in their last friendly match before the finals.
Italy gets a boost from playing 3 matches at home in front of about 16,000 fans.
“The current Italy team has more potential than the 2016 team, but we have to show it,” said defender Alessandro Florenzi.
He added, “If we get out of the group stage, the result will be worse than the previous 5 years, and to prove that we are better, we must at least get past the quarter-finals.”
But Italy will have a tough start against Turkey, which is resilient and talented and has impressed with its qualifications against the top teams.
Turkey snatched 4 points from two matches against world champion France in the qualifiers for the continental competition, and beat the Netherlands 4-2 in the World Cup qualifiers, and drew 3-3 with Germany and Croatia in a friendly.
وعلى عكس ما تشير إليه هذه المباريات غزيرة الأهداف تكمن قوة تركيا في دفاعها، حيث استقبلت 3 أهداف في 10 مباريات بتصفيات بطولة أوروبا، في ظل تألق الثنائي شالار سويونغو لاعب ليستر ومريه دميرال لاعب يوفنتوس.
لكن توجد أسلحة أخرى بتشكيلة تركيا تتمثل في صانع لعب ميلان هاكان شالهان أوغلو، الذي سيجد الأجواء مألوفة مع منافسيه في روما، وكذلك المهاجم بوراك يلماز (35 عاما)، الذي توج مع ليل بلقب دوري الدرجة الأولى الفرنسي مؤخرا رفقة زميليه بالفريق زكي تشيليك ويوسف يازجي.
Coach Şenol Güneş led Turkey to third place in the 2002 World Cup, and any chances of repeating the achievement this summer depend on his maintaining cohesion. He also reached the semi-finals of “Euro 2008”, which took place in Switzerland and Austria, and this is the best result for the Turks in the continental championship.
Güneş says that Turkey is proud of its participation in the opening match of the tournament against the “great” Italian team. “Italy is a great team, and I have great respect for them. This is the first time that Turkey plays an opening match, and for all my players except for 3 players, this will be their first European Championship match,” he explained.
“In 2002 we went to the World Cup with players who had no experience in finals, and we did a good job. It could be the same here, the feeling in the camp is the same. We all have a common goal; the players and the coaching staff. We are all heading in the same direction,” Güneş noted. .
He added the Turkish coach, “Roberto Mancini” (the coach of Italy) knows Turkey – he supervised the Galatasaray team – and formed a wonderful team. But we are here to win.”
In turn, Calhanoglu confirmed, “This is a special match for us and for me, because it is taking place in Italy. I am looking forward to facing my teammates in the club. The first match is always special.”
“I would like to meet Italy again in the final, of course. It was a hard journey to get here, and now we want to stay.”
History tends to the hosts, as Italy has never lost to Turkey in 10 previous confrontations in all competitions, and achieved 7 wins against 3 draws.
The hosts hope to continue this series to continue writing a new chapter in Italian football history.