Italy couldn’t have asked for a better start to Euro 2020.
With Andrea Bocelli’s stirring rendition of Nessun Dorma still ringing in Gli Azzurri’s ears, Roberto Mancini’s men put in a stellar performance to clinch the first three points of this summer’s European tournament.
Around 15,000 supporters witnessed Italy cruise to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Turkey at Stadio Olimpico, sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition. The victors dominated the ball, passing Turkey to death and eventually finding their breakthrough following a lovely flowing move down the right flank.
The opening goal was scored in Rome, but made in Emilia Romagna, the home of Serie A side Sassuolo. Neroverdi star Manuel Locatelli was instrumental in the midfield, and when domestic teammate Domenico Berardi picked up the ball, he did everything right, forcing ex-Sassuolo defender Merih Demiral to turn the cross into his own net.
It was a glorious move by Italy and simultaneously a cruel way for Turkey to fall behind, but that was the story of Euro 2020’s deadlock breaker.
It was only missing one thing: Sassuolo striker Giacomo Raspadori tapping it in ahead of Demiral.
The 21-year-old did not feature for Italy on Friday evening, watching from the sidelines as Ciro Immobile opened his account for the summer, and the attacking stars flourished. The Azzurri were in complete control from start to finish, although there was a small period towards the end of the first half when a sense of frustration appeared to creep in.
The forward players were trying to ping the ball between themselves in the final third to find the magic formula and unlock the resolute Turkish defence, but there was a real lack of cohesion between them.
That’s understandable, given that they’re gathered and forced to play together three or four times for a two-week period every year. Luckily, Italy’s persistence paid off this time, and they got their decisive opening goal – even if it arrived with a touch of fortune.
But there will be matches when the ball doesn’t drop in their favour in the penalty area, and the ricochets don’t fall their way. Frustration grows, and the Tiki Taka turns to pinball. In those occasions, the key will be finding the right combination to unlock the backline.
That’s where Raspadori comes in. He can take the Sassuolo connection from the midfield, out wide and into the six-yard box. He has spent the past year making the right runs to plant himself on the end of Berardi’s crosses or Locatelli’s through balls, and he knows better than anyone where to loiter in search of a goal.
Sassuolo’s dazzling style of play means that these guys know each other’s next move like the back of their hands, and along with Atalanta, they’re probably the most well-drilled team in Serie A. That means, wherever Berardi decides to put the ball, Raspadori will be waiting, or wherever Raspadori moves, berardi will place the ball.
This time, Demiral was on hand to turn Berardi’s fizzed delivery beyond the Turkey goalkeeper. Who’s to say that Raspadori wouldn’t have darted in there first to flick the ball home though, had he been on the pitch?
The starlet’s overall link up play and love for dropping deep, playing with his back to goal and then charging into the box having popped possession off to a teammate makes him a perfect forward for this Italy system.
Immobile may be the man entrusted with leading the line this summer, but he must be concerned that he will lose his place as a regular starter in the near future. And who knows? Perhaps Raspadori will be handed his chance in the final game of the group stages if Italy are home and hosed, and he could just show enough to give Mancini some food for thought.