Euro 2020 news - Roberto Mancini's electric Italy show they are far more than just dark horses
Italy's 3-0 win over Turkey in the Group A fixture in Rome was not only the nation’s biggest win at a European Championship but is also the record margin of victory ever in the opening match of a Euros. And the nature of the performance from Roberto Mancini's side means that Italy can no longer be considered as just dark horses to win the tournament, but one of the likelier champions.
'A wonderful evening' - Mancini hails opening win for Italy
It needed something special to ensure that Andrea Bocelli’s magnificent opening-ceremony vocals were not the standout performance on an emotional opening evening of Euro 2020. But Roberto Mancini’s Italy side ensured that the tournament opener in Rome will be remembered for more than just the tenor’s belting rendition of Nessun Dorma.
Mancini’s squad went into this tournament with plenty of confidence after a flawless qualification run and on the back of a 27-game unbeaten streak. But, outside of Italy, there has been very little talk of the Azzurri as potential tournament winners at Wembley in a month’s time.
Yet the Italians can no longer be considered as dark horses after a 3-0 win that is not only the nation’s biggest win at a European Championship but is also the record margin of victory ever in the opening match of a Euros.
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 11: Lorenzo Insigne of Italy is congratulated by Roberto Mancini, Head Coach of Italy after being subsituted during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A match between Turkey and Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on June 11, 2021 in Rome,
Image credit: Getty Images
And they were well-worth the win too, completely dominating a defensively-resolute yet limited Turkey side who had little answer to the relentless pressing style of their white-shirted hosts.
The fact that the tournament kicked off with an Italy game in Rome gave the match an extra-special boost, but one of the more impressive aspects of the home side’s display was that it was not driven by emotion, nor by the sort of counter-attacking and defensive style that Italy teams are sometimes known for.
No, this team that Mancini has built is a smart outfit, playing the sort of sharp-passing and high-intensity style that has been a feature of the top level of European club football in recent seasons, but is rarely seen on the international circuit.
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 11: Lorenzo Insigne of Italy celebrates after scoring their side's third goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group A match between Turkey and Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on June 11, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Image credit: Getty Images
A hard-working midfield pairing of Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella did the hard yards to complete overrun the Turkish midfield, while there was constant threat from the sprightly Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi either side of the perennial goal threat Ciro Immobile. But it was the range of options and the quality of the movement that made Italy so dangerous, with left-back Leonardo Spinazzola particularly impressive with his intelligent marauding runs to stretch the Turkish defence.
The template is clever and the personnel are of high quality, but the reason why Mancini’s side could really test the more fancied sides in this tournament is the presence of Chelsea’s Jorginho at the base of midfield.
The 29-year-old ran the show in Rome, keeping things ticking over with a performance that eked ever inch of quality out of the players ahead of him.
Italy enjoyed almost two thirds of possession on the night and mustered up 24 attempts on goal despite being faced with ten men behind the ball for much of the game. And much of the reason for that was Jorginho’s ability to dictate play and move his opponents around.
Both of these teams were described as dark horses to win the tournament prior to the Group A opener. But it’s disingenuous to call a side as good as this Italian one a ‘dark horse’. It might only be day one of the tournament, but there won’t be many teams who play better football than Mancini’s managed in Rome.
Yet anyone who labelled Turkey as pre-tournament dark horses will fear they may have jumped the gun, following a display from Senol Gunes’ young team that never really got out of the gate.
Turkey will need to get back into the saddle quickly if they are to avoid a quick exit, with a crunch game against Gareth Bale’s Wales next up on Wednesday afternoon in Baku.