Italy’s Euro 2020 opener was nearly taken over by the iconic little car that carried the match ball, but I Azzurri made sure they commanded the headlines when all was said and done.
Roberto Mancini’s men looked to be struggling in the first half, with Turkey happy to sit back and deny them space. It was tough to watch at times, but after the break, Italy turned on the jets and flexed their experience to gain control of the game.
Instead of panicking, Italy chose to remain calm and simply out-work their opponents. Channelling the hurt of a nation who missed out on the 2018 World Cup, Italy oozed class and composure as they passed Turkey into the ground. If the Turks weren’t going to give them space, Italy were going to make it for themselves.
The passes came flying in. The midfield trio of Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Manuel Locatelli took control, with the excellent left-sided duo of Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Insigne joining in and tearing a whole through the right side of the Turkish defence.
They simply couldn’t keep up. Yusuf Yazici had to be taken off at half-time and he was soon followed by Ozan Tufan and Okay Yokuslu, both of whom were drenched in sweat after chasing shadows. Turkey weren’t given a chance to breathe, literally. It was a glorious form of torture at times.
Even without the ball, Italy didn’t let up. They pressed relentlessly, with so much determination to suffocate their opponents. They wanted to be on the ball from start to finish, and they weren’t far off pulling that off.
You could see the structure in Italy’s play. Mancini ushered in a style of play which got the best out of all of his key players. Spinazzola and Insigne were particularly ridiculous at times, weaving around on the left and wreaking havoc from start to finish, and the movement of the midfield was perfect to a tee.
It was a statement victory. Sure, there will be better opponents for Italy to overcome, but all the signs suggest they will be able to do it. This was seriously impressive.
If you’re going to try and frustrate Italy, they will frustrate you right back. They will step their game up to another level and force you to do things you don’t want to do. That’s what big teams do.
A few years after being the global laughing stock, Italy are here to rebuild their reputation as one of the world’s best.
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