Italy v Turkey: Mancini's new-look Azzurri look to capitalise on Olimpico record to end Euros drought

By Sports Desk June 10, 2021

Italy will hope their excellent record at the Stadio Olimpico can propel them towards Euro 2020 glory in Roberto Mancini's first tournament as coach, with a tricky test against Turkey first up for the competition's curtain-raiser on Friday.

It has been all change for Italy since their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, with Mancini installed as Gian Piero Ventura's replacement and tasked with restoring the Azzurri's reputation.

What they hope will help is the fact all three of their group games – and a quarter-final – will be played at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, where they have never lost (W6 2D) in eight matches at major tournaments, while the Azzurri were one of just two teams along with Belgium to win all of their 10 qualifiers.

Of course, Italy wrapped up their qualifying campaign almost two years ago, with these finals pushed back 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Mancini has vowed to do the country proud after a difficult time as they look to claim a first European Championship since 1968.

In an open letter to fans, he wrote: "Sport in these moments is an essential tool of our life. It can help us feel better. Never before have we so badly needed it.

"Our national team is aware of representing a fantastic and determined people, and for this reason I, together with the staff and the guys who take the field, will use all the minutes of this event to honour the country that we represent.

"They will be moments of joy that will make us forget the past year for just a moment."


Italy – Jorginho

While he will not necessarily be the man tasked with putting the ball in the net, unless Italy get a penalty, Jorginho performs a crucial function for Italy. He was one of three players to record over 1,000 touches in qualifying and his role as a conduit in possession is essential to how Mancini's team play. If he has a difficult game, the chances are the Azzurri will struggle by extension.

Turkey – Hakan Calhanoglu

Although Italy will be favourites here, Turkey should not be underestimated. Possessing the youngest squad at the Euros, they are a vibrant and technically gifted bunch. Arguably encapsulating those traits better than anyone else in the team is Calhanoglu. The Milan midfielder offers almost guaranteed creativity, as evidenced by the fact he created the most chances in Serie A (98) in 2020-21, while his nine assists came from an xA (expected assists) value of 8.5, suggesting his haul was born out of consistency rather than luck.



- Despite playing 38 games in the European Championship, Italy have never scored more than two goals in a match. They have also drawn more games than any other side in the tournament's history (16), while also taking part in the most goalless matches (eight).

- The Azzurri scored 37 goals in their 10 qualification matches (3.7 per game); this was the same tally as they scored in qualification for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup combined (37 goals in 22 games).

- Turkey conceded only three goals in 10 games in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, the joint-best defensive record alongside Belgium.

- This will be Senol Gunes' second major tournament as Turkey head coach (World Cup/European Championships), 18 years after leading his nation to a third place at the 2002 World Cup, their best-ever performance in the competition.

- Turkey and Italy's only previous encounter in a major tournament was at Euro 2000, also on 11th June. It was their opening game of the tournament, ending 2-1 to Italy courtesy of goals from Antonio Conte and Filippo Inzaghi, the latter of whom netted a penalty. It was also in that game that Okan Buruk scored Turkey's first ever goal in the European Championship.


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    Gareth Southgate acknowledged it is "hard work" for England so far at Euro 2024, but attempted to focus on the positives despite another underwhelming draw for his side, this time against Slovenia.

    The goalless clash in Cologne on Tuesday was enough for the Three Lions to secure top spot in Group C ahead of Denmark, who also drew 0-0 with Serbia.

    Southgate's side therefore avoided a last-16 tie against Germany, but struggled once more to find an attacking spark.

    The front three of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, while also registering just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box.

    England came under heavy criticism following their 1-1 draw with Denmark last week and there were boos from sections of their supporters following the full-time whistle in this game.

    But Southgate insisted his side had performed better in their final group outing. 

    "I thought we were much-improved with the ball," he told ITV. "We've created some good openings.

    "At the moment, it's hard work for us. We're not quite getting that break in front of goal.

    "We've had the discipline to keep a clean sheet, which has ended up meaning we top the group. I understand some reactions, but it's a strange environment we're playing in.

    "We wanted to win the game, as you saw from the attacking changes we made. There were lots of things we can build on from the game and a lot of things are starting to come together.

    "We looked more dangerous and we had a good impact from our subs. We've now just got to convert those chances."

    The Three Lions boss praised the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon for their displays from the bench, and also explained his decision to replace Conor Gallagher - the sole change to the starting line-up from the Denmark game - at half-time.

    "They're really young players, so we're balancing blooding them in a difficult environment, but they used the ball really well for us," he said.

    "We started with Conor, who presses well, and I thought we did that better at the start of the game. We then felt Kobbie's ability to move the ball through the middle of the pitch was going to be helpful, which he did.

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    England now await the identity of their last-16 opponents, which will either be the Netherlands - who finished third in Group D - or the third-placed nation in Group E.

    The Euro 2020 finalists have avoided the half of the draw containing the likes of Germany, Spain, Portugal and France.

    However, Southgate was quick to sweep aside any suggestions his side have been handed a more straightforward path towards a potentially deep run in the competition.

    "We have to take it a step at a time," he added. "This was an improvement, but we've got to improve to win in the next round clearly.

    "We have topped the group, and that was the objective at the start.

    "We've got to play well and whoever we play, it's going to be a really tough game. We shouldn't be seduced by which half of the draw we're in."

  • 'Another step in the right direction' – Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw 'Another step in the right direction' – Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw

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    England drew 0-0 with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday, though with Denmark drawing against Serbia by the same scoreline, Gareth Southgate's team still topped Group C.

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    England had 74% possession and recorded 12 shots, though their expected goals (xG) value of 0.87 shows clear chances were once again at a premium.

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    Stones, who is the only outfield player to have started all 22 matches for England at major tournaments under Southgate, added that the squad will be critical of their own displays, however.

    "[We're] very close [to clicking]," he continued.

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    Captain Harry Kane echoed his team-mate's sentiment.

    Kane said: "That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny. I thought we played a lot better than the other games. We couldn't just find that finish but we look forward to the next one.

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    England will face either the Netherlands or any of the four teams from Group E in the next round.

    Slovenia, meanwhile, will go through as one of the best third-placed sides, with Croatia from Group B officially eliminated as a result of Tuesday's matches.

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    The Three Lions endured another flat display in front of goal, with Bukayo Saka's ruled out first-half effort the only real moment of quality from Gareth Southgate's side.

    An injection of pace from substitute Cole Palmer threatened to spark England into life, but a winning goal eluded them as they finished with just five points from their three group games.  

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    With hopes of a fast start from the Three Lions, it was Slovenia who registered the first effort as Benjamin Sesko saw his header comfortably gathered by Jordan Pickford. 

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    The result for Southgate's side confirmed Croatia's elimination from the tournament, with the full-time whistle greeted with frustration by the England support as Slovenia celebrated a remarkable achievement.

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    With the expectations of England's plethora of attacking options possibly being enough to win the tournament on their own, it was yet another underwhelming display. 

    A front three of Kane, Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, with the trio also managing just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box. 

    With much of the focus surrounding Jude Bellingham, the Los Blancos star was a shadow of the man who scored 23 goals for Real Madrid this season. 

    The 20-year-old completed 86% of his 57 passes, the second-lowest of England's midfield behind Gallagher (85%) and an improvement will be needed regardless of whoever England's last-16 opponents end up being.

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    Despite failing to win a game at Euro 2024, Slovenia proved difficult opponents for each of Group C's sides and have received their just rewards. 

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