UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hailed the "unity of the football family" in wishing a speedy recovery to Denmark star Christian Eriksen.

Inter midfielder Eriksen collapsed to the ground with no one around him shortly before half-time of the Euro 2020 Group B fixture between the Danes and Finland in Copenhagen.

Team-mates formed a protective shield around Eriksen as medical personnel rushed to resuscitate him, and the match was suspended.

There was later a positive update from the Danish Football Union (DBU), which said Eriksen was conscious and set for further medical examinations.

Players, pundits and fans alike united to rally around and send good thoughts to Eriksen, with UEFA chief Ceferin hailing that collective spirit.

"Moments like this put everything in life into perspective. I wish Christian a full and speedy recovery and pray his family has strength and faith," the president's statement, released via UEFA, read.

"At these times, the unity of the football family is so strong and he and his family carry with them the good wishes and prayers of everyone. I heard of fans of both teams chanting his name. Football is beautiful and Christian plays it beautifully."

Following consultations with both sets of players and coaching staffs, the fixture was resumed at 20:30 CET.

DBU football director Peter Moller later told Danish publication DR that Eriksen had been in contact with DBU officials and his team-mates.

Moller praised the "lightning fast treatment" Eriksen received at the stadium, which he said "saved" the former Tottenham playmaker.

UEFA has confirmed Denmark's Euro 2020 fixture against Finland will be completed on Saturday after Christian Eriksen was described as "awake" and in a "stable condition" in hospital.

The match was suspended shortly before half-time of the Group B fixture after Inter midfielder Eriksen collapsed to the ground with no one around him.

Team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical staff, with the players forming a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

UEFA later said the match was suspended due to a "medical emergency", but positive news followed with the Danish Football Union stating Eriksen was conscious and set for "further examinations" after being taken to hospital.

European football's governing body confirmed the fixture in Copenhagen would resume at 20:30 CET, while the other fixture in the pool between Belgium and Russia was also given the green light to take place at 21:00 CET.

A statement from UEFA read: "The request made by players of both teams, UEFA has agreed to restart the match between Denmark and Finland tonight at 20:30 CET (TBC).

"The match has been suspended due to a medical emergency which involved Denmark’s Christian Eriksen. The player in now in hospital and in a stable condition. UEFA wishes Christian Eriksen a full and speedy recovery and wishes to thank both teams for their exemplary attitude."

UEFA said the remaining five minutes of the first half would take place, followed by a brief five-minutes for half-time, followed by the second half of the match.

Eriksen was sent messages from around the football world on social media following the concerning incident.

Former club Tottenham – where he spent six and a half years – posted on Twitter: "All of our thoughts are with Christian Eriksen and his family."

Harry Kane played with Eriksen at Spurs and had been due to face the media alongside England manager Gareth Southgate on the eve of their meeting with Croatia at Wembley.

The news conference was cancelled and the Football Association said: "Our thoughts this evening are with Christian Eriksen and his family, and all connected with the Danish Football Union."

UEFA has confirmed Denmark's Euro 2020 fixture against Finland will be completed on Saturday after Christian Eriksen was described as "awake" and in a "stable condition" in hospital.

Christian Eriksen has been transferred to hospital and "stabilised" after collapsing on Saturday, UEFA has confirmed.

The Danish Football Union added that Inter midfielder Eriksen was "awake" and set for "further examinations" after he fell to the ground with no other player around him during the first half of his country's Euro 2020 opener against Finland in Copenhagen.

Team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical staff, with the players forming a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

UEFA soon confirmed the match had been suspended "due to a medical emergency".

A further update followed and confirmed Eriksen was now in hospital, with a crisis meeting set for later on Saturday.

UEFA's statement read: "Following the medical emergency involving Denmark's player Christian Eriksen, a crisis meeting has taken place with both teams and match officials and further information will be communicated at 19:45 CET.

"The player has been transferred to the hospital and has been stabilised."

Eriksen was sent messages from around the football world on social media following the concerning incident.

Former club Tottenham – where he spent six and a half years – posted on Twitter: "All of our thoughts are with Christian Eriksen and his family."

Harry Kane played with Eriksen at Spurs and had been due to face the media alongside England manager Gareth Southgate on the eve of their meeting with Croatia at Wembley.

The news conference was cancelled and the Football Association said: "Our thoughts this evening are with Christian Eriksen and his family, and all connected with the Danish Football Union."

Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland was suspended on Saturday after Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch during the first half.

The Inter midfielder fell to the ground with no other player around him shortly before half-time in the goalless Group B clash in Copenhagen.

Eriksen's team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical officials, who raced onto the pitch to treat the 29-year-old.

The players formed a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

Players from both teams were in notable distress on the field, as were supporters watching from the stands.

Taylor was seen consulting with both coaches, before the players were led from the pitch at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

UEFA then confirmed the match had been suspended "due to a medical emergency".

An experimental Jamaica Reggae Boyz squad were thoroughly outclassed by the Japanese Olympic team, in a 4-0 loss, at the Tokyo Stadium, on Saturday morning.

Far from the competent display put on against the Serbian squad a few days earlier, the mix and match Jamaica team struggled to shift out of first gear and barely managed a shot on goal for 90 minutes.

The Samurai Blue, on the other hand, were razor-sharp and moved the ball with pace and purpose throughout the encounter.  Although a bit fortuitous, it was hardly a surprise when the Asian squad took the lead through Takefusa Kubo.  His fierce 32nd-minute strike, fired from inside the area to the left of the goal, went through the legs of four defenders before also going through Jamaica goalkeeper Dillion Barnes, who seemed unsighted.

The swarming Japanese increased the lead further 10 minutes later when Wataru Endo, given space just outside the 18-year area, used it to his advantage with geometric precision as he curled a shot high to the left of a fully outstretched Barnes.

Any hopes of a comeback were killed off early in the second half when substitute Ayase Ueda ran on to a defense-splitting pass, from the centre of midfield, and cheekily dinked over an onrushing Barnes to make the score 3-0 in the 58th minute.  The rout was completed in a simplistic fashion, in the 64th minute, when a loosely marked Ritsu Doan picked up the ball five yards from goal before pivoting to blast it into the net.

The match marked the end of what was supposed to be a three-match tour for the Jamaica team, where the first match against the Japan national team was cancelled after a COVID-19 testing mix-up led to the Caribbean squad not having enough players.

There are aspects to the Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez of 2021 that make them wonderfully reflective of the Uruguay national team.

Impassioned? Yes. Belligerent? Certainly. A footballing pedigree to rival the best in the world? Absolutely.

What about quality? After all those years, are they still match-winners, entertainers, undimmed by the passing of time? Of course they are. Just ask Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Last August, Suarez was informed by new Barca coach Ronald Koeman that he would not be in his plans at Camp Nou. Too old to be relied upon, too expensive to bench seemed to be the feeling. Regardless, the Catalans reportedly had a list of teams to whom they would not sell Suarez for fear of the deal coming back to haunt them, a list that, apparently, inexplicably, did not include Atletico Madrid. He duly went to the capital on a two-year deal.

Likewise, Cavani seemed to be offloaded all too readily by PSG, who had just lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich and appeared eager to freshen things up without their record goalscorer. Manchester United were, eventually, the team to gamble on the striker, who joined on a one-year deal with an option for another in October, by which time the Red Devils had failed to sign top target Jadon Sancho and been linked with several other alternatives.

Both players, then, had a point to prove. Boy, did they prove it.

 

Suarez scored twice and set up another on his LaLiga debut for Atleti in a 6-1 win over Granada in September. He then scored three times for Uruguay in the October international break, and again in the 3-0 win at Colombia in November.

From December 19 to February 8, Suarez scored 11 goals in nine league games, including three braces in a run of four matches. He would end the season with winners against Osasuna and Real Valladolid, his 21 goals overall securing 21 points for Atleti throughout the campaign, the most of any player in the competition. And, of course, he won the title, for the fifth time in seven seasons.

Not that such a contribution should really have been in doubt. While he may no longer be quite the all-round dynamo of his Liverpool and early Barca days, his ruthlessness in the opposition box has scarcely diminished; since 2011-12, only Lionel Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Suarez (325).

 

Unlike his international team-mate, Cavani ended the club season empty-handed, despite scoring United's goal in the Europa League final with Villarreal, which they lost on penalties. Still, few could argue Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's decision to sign him was a mistake.

Cavani did not play a full league game until December 29, and he served a three-game domestic ban for a social media post deemed racist by the Football Association, a decision decried as culturally insensitive in Uruguay. He still ended 2020-21 with 17 goals and five assists at a rate of one goal every 128 minutes, the best return of any United player. He also became the third Red Devil to score 10 or more Premier League goals in a single season in which he was 33 or older at the start (also Teddy Sheringham in 2000-01 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016-17), and he equalled the record of five substitute goals over a whole campaign held by Javier Hernandez (2010-11) and Solskjaer (1998-99).

In the Europa League last-four tie against Roma, Cavani became the first player to score at least twice in each leg of a major European semi-final since 1986, when Klaus Allofs did so for Cologne against KSV Waregem. He was also the oldest player to score twice and assist twice in a Champions League or Europa League match, at 34 years and 74 days old. No wonder Solskjaer was so desperate to see him accept the one-year extension to his contract, and was presumably so relieved when he did.

Cavani and Suarez finished 2020-21 on 22 and 24 direct goal involvements, respectively. Among South America players, only Messi (50), Luis Muriel (36), Duvan Zapata  (31), Lautaro Martinez (26) and Neymar (25) had more.

 

So they come, then, to the Copa America, as two of the remaining members of that squad that lifted the trophy in 2011. They have the form, and undoubtedly the pedigree; they are Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorers, Suarez on 63 and Cavani 51.

And yet Uruguay are often consigned to the also-rans when it comes to tournament predictions. While they have waited a decade to lift the trophy, they are the most successful team in the competition's history, with the most appearances (45) and titles (15), yet few will look beyond emergency hosts Brazil and Argentina as favourites or Chile and Colombia as outside bets.

Perhaps the problem lies in a perception of bluntness around Uruguay's play, far removed from the ideals of jogo bonito. Despite holding the most Copa America titles, Uruguay boast a worse goal-per-game average (2.02) at the tournament than Argentina or Brazil; somewhat fittingly, their last triumph a decade ago came in the worst finals for goalscoring (54 in 26, or 2.08 per match) since 1922 (22 in 11, or 2.00 per match). Oscar Tabarez's men have also gone three games without a goal since a 3-0 win over Colombia last November.

If only they had a couple of star strikers who have spent the past year defying the doubters...

Before every major tournament, eyes are trained on the next generation of stars set to take the football world by storm.

This year's rescheduled Copa America is no different with the likes of Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, Brazil right-back Emerson Royal and Colombia forward Jaminton Campaz on the scene.

But there is still no changing of the guard as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, among others, continue to dominate on the international stage.

Stats Perform looks at six players above the age of 30 and their eye-catching numbers heading into the 47th edition of the Copa America.

 

Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina

Messi enters the showpiece South American tournament on the back of another impressive club campaign. With 30 league goals in 2020-21, Barcelona superstar Messi has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons. Craving senior international silverware with La Albiceleste following runners-up appearances at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup in 2014, Messi scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. Following a third-placed finish in 2019, Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, while only Javier Mascherano (147) has earned more caps than the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (144) – will be hoping this year's tournament delivers that much-coveted international prize. Argentina are in Group A alongside matchday one opponents Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Luis Suarez, 34, Uruguay

Suarez upstaged close friend Messi in 2020-21 after swapping Barca for Atletico Madrid. Having been forced out of Camp Nou amid concerns his best years were behind him, veteran forward Suarez found vindication and the ultimate revenge by leading to Atletico Madrid to LaLiga glory. His 21 goals were worth 21 points last season – the most of any player in the competition. Since 2011-12, only Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top-five leagues than Suarez (325 – 233 goals and 92 assists). Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer (63), Suarez is far from a spent force as Oscar Tabarez's side – who are scheduled to open their campaign against Argentina – fight to win a first Copa America crown since 2011. Suarez has been directly involved in nine goals in 10 games at the Copa America (six goals and three assists).

Edinson Cavani, 34, Uruguay

Cavani and Suarez are the face of a generation that delivered the 2011 title, finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals at Russia 2018. Cavani joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2020-21 and made an immediate impact at Old Trafford, finishing the season with 10 Premier League goals and 17 across all competitions – his minutes per goal ratio both in the Premier League and in all competitions the best among his team-mates (137 and 128). In the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Cavani became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European decider for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12. Only Suarez has scored more goals for Uruguay than Cavani (51 in 118 appearances), who earned a new deal in Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez, 32, Chile

Sanchez's club career had been on a steep decline since he left Arsenal for Premier League rivals United in 2018. But the Chile star has enjoyed success at Inter. Although a squad player under former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez – who joined Inter permanently last year – scored seven goals and supplied five assists in just 12 starts last term. An option in place of regular starting duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez ranked better in shooting accuracy excluding blocks (69.6 per cent), passing accuracy (80.0), passing accuracy ending in the final third (73.5) and dribbled success rate (60.0) than both men. His big chance conversion rate (50.0) was only second to Lukaku, likewise his shot conversion rate (24.1). At international level, there is no disputing his role for Chile after leading La Roja to Copa America success in 2015 and 2016. Chile's most capped player (138) and leading goalscorer (46), Sanchez will once again carry the weight of his country this month.

Marcelo Martins, 33, Bolivia

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Currently playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. With their talisman leading the line, Bolivia – who won their only Copa America title on home soil in 1963 and lost the final when they hosted again in 1997 – are seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time since 2015. They start against Paraguay.

Paolo Guerrero, 37, Peru

Like Martins in Bolivia, Guerrero epitomises Peruvian football. The success of Peru has long been linked to the striker, who is in the history books for the most goals (38) for La Blanquirroja. Having debuted in 2004, this will be the captain's sixth Copa America appearance, having guided two-time winners Peru to third place in the 2011 and 2015 editions before securing a runners-up medal in 2019 – finishing as top scorer in all three of those tournaments. Guerrero is now the leading Copa America scorer in among active players (14) and only three shy of the all-time record (Norberto Mendez and Zizinho, both 17). While in the twilight of his career, Ricardo Gareca and Peru – who will come up against Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela – will be leaning on his experience across the border in Brazil.

Thiago Silva, 36, Brazil

There were some doubts about Silva's suitability to the Premier League when he saw out his PSG contract and opted to test himself with Chelsea. But the star centre-back did not look out of place in England, despite his advancing years, ending the campaign as a Champions League winner for the first time in his career. In all competitions in 2020-21, Silva led Chelsea in passing accuracy (93.0 per cent). He became Chelsea's oldest player (36 years and 249 days) to appear in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele against United in the 2008 Champions League decider (35 years and 93 days) as the Blues trumped Manchester City in Porto. The Selecao captain now turns his attention to Brazil's bid to claim back-to-back Copa America trophies. They have won five of the past nine.

Jamaica international Alvas Powell has officially rejoined Major League Soccer (MLS) after signing a one-year deal with Philadelphia Union.

The 26-year-old spent the past several weeks training with the team and was offered a contract on Thursday.  Prior to signing the deal, the defender spent the majority of his career at MLS club Portland Timbers where he made 101 appearances between 2015 and 2018. 

The 29-year-old had joined Sudanese club Al-Hilal Clu in December after another US franchise Inter Miami CF declined to offer him a new contract.  Before leaving the club he had made just four appearances for the franchise owned by former Manchester United and Real Madrid star David Beckham.

Union sporting director Ernst Tanner confirmed that the Union were excited to have secured the services of the Jamaica defender.

“We are excited to add Alvas to our defensive unit," Tanner said.

"He brings almost eight years of MLS experience to the club as well as the mentality and work ethic it takes to win a Cup. He has the physicality required to contribute to all phases of play and adds important depth to our backline,” he added.

Powell won the MLS Cup with Portland in 2015.

 

 

Turkey head coach Senol Gunes says his side "lost control of the game" after conceding the first goal in Friday's 3-0 loss to Italy in the opening game of Euro 2020.

The Crescent Stars defended well in the first half, playing a counter-attacking style, with the game goalless at the break.

Turkey added a bit more adventure in the second half, opening themselves up when Domenico Berardi's 53rd minute cutback deflected in off Merih Demiral.

Italy took complete control of the game from there, with further strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne.

"We started to lose the ball and couldn't get forward. Italy were better – we lost to the better team," Gunes said.

"They were more dominant than us, we lost the ball so many times and this just gave the advantage to our opponent.

"After we conceded the first goal we just really got distracted and lost control of the game."

The heavy defeat leaves Turkey with work to do in Group A, with Wales to play Switzerland on Saturday in the other group game.

Gunes can take comfort knowing that Turkey have lost their opening match at every major tournament they have entered (Euros and World Cup), losing seven out of seven, yet had some success in the past.

"I can say, technically speaking, we played a very strong Italian team," Gunes said. "I’m not very satisfied with the score. I was expecting better football here.

"But even if we lose or win, the competition will continue. We just lost against a host team and we have two more important games against Wales and Switzerland.

"We’ll tidy ourselves up and will start to prepare for those. Italy used the pitch very well, they just kept the ball and physically we fell from the game."

Turkey return to action on Wednesday in Baku against Wales.

Raheem Sterling has been awarded an MBE for his services to racial equality in sport, with England team-mate Jordan Henderson similarly recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Manchester City winger has campaigned consistently against racism in football, most notably since a social media post in December 2018 after he was abused during a match at Chelsea.

Sterling highlighted the contrast in certain aspects of media coverage given to black and white footballers and was widely praised for making his feelings public.

He has since leant his weight to initiatives such as the United Nations #FightRacism campaign, along with launching his own charitable foundation.

“Receiving this honour is a fantastic feeling and a proud moment - not just for myself but for my family and friends," the 26-year-old said.

"I am grateful to have been recognised but my priority is to try to help to educate society and myself. If it doesn’t start from within, then there’s no way you can help others. I’m learning every day.

"My motivation for racial equality is to get people to understand the difficulties people from diverse backgrounds face and create an environment where everybody is equal."

The issue of protest in favour of racial equality has dominated the build-up to England's Euro 2020 campaign, with a section of home supporters booing their team for taking a knee in solidarity before kick-off.

Premier League teams have made the gesture - one synonymous with campaigns for racial justice going back to the days of Martin Luther King and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement - before all games since last year's coronavirus shutdown, with Sterling a vocal early supporter.

"I feel we are starting to make a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are still a lot of things we can get better at as a society, such as social media with people taking more accountability," Sterling said.

"I think that is a major factor in achieving the ultimate goal of racial equality. We also need to support young people and give them opportunities to show what they are capable of achieving.

"I’ve launched a foundation for underprivileged kids from deprived backgrounds. It’s something that I’m really excited to work on because I can relate to it and I will give 100 per cent.

"If I can help to change one or two lives then I’ve done a massive thing there. If you want to make change then it has to start from yourself."

Liverpool captain Henderson was given an MBE for his services to football, having followed up 2018-19 Champions League success with the Premier League title in 2019-20, along with his charitable efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Henderson was a leading figure in captains from Premier League clubs establishing the #PlayersTogether initiative to support NHS Charities Together.

"There are many privileges that come from playing professional football, but having a platform to promote a charitable cause such as #PlayersTogether and NHS Charities Together is as big a privilege as any," Henderson said.

"It's important for me to state that although the honour has been issued to me personally, the credit must be shared to a far larger group of people and I accept this in the knowledge I was part of something special, rather than the reason for it.

"The other Premier League captains were the catalyst and the rest of the players, including my own teammates at Liverpool, were a driving force behind the scenes. Huge numbers of football fans, from across the country, also displayed great generosity in donating.

"But the true heroes are the NHS staff; they put themselves in harm’s way to serve and protect us. Therefore I dedicate this to all the nurses, doctors, carers, porters, admin workers, cleaners, security personnel and every single individual who devotes their career and their lives to making the NHS the part of British life we are rightly most proud of as a nation."

Roberto Mancini basked in the emotion of a "beautiful evening" as Italy began Euro 2020 with a commanding 3-0 win over Turkey, but he is not getting carried away after one match.

Against a sorry Turkey side, Italy were a cut above on Friday in Rome's Stadio Olimpico, where the Azzurri are unbeaten in nine matches at major tournaments.

A frustratingly unambitious Turkey were finally breached early in the second half when Domenico Berardi smashed a cross in off Merih Demiral and, as their opponents' cumulative expected goals (xG) value of 0.6 suggests, Italy need not have scored again.

But they did for good measure, Ciro Immobile pouncing on a rebound to net for the third successive game for his country, before then teeing up the excellent Lorenzo Insigne for a lovely finish.

It was the first time in European Championship history that Italy have scored three times in a single match, with the win and overall manner of it seeing Mancini's men make a real statement about their chances over the next month.

It had been difficult to truly gauge their seemingly impressive qualifying campaign because most of their goals came against massively inferior opposition. This victory was rather more conclusive, though Mancini was not getting carried away at full-time.

Asked whether this was just the first step towards the final at Wembley on July 11, Mancini told Rai Sport: "There are still six more steps. It was a beautiful evening, I hope there are many others like this.

"I was hoping for a start like this, we are pleased to have played well and entertained the fans. I hope the Italians had a good evening. We played well, we never gave up. In short it was an excellent match.

"We are aware that we are a good team. We beat Turkey, who are definitely not pushovers. We know we can still improve, even with young players who don't yet have European Championship experience."

The first half was frustrating for Italy, their 14 shots – compared to Turkey's zero – yielding little, while their opponents sat back and hoped to absorb pressure.

Italy would have expected such an approach from Turkey to a degree, given they relied on counter-attacks 26 per cent more than the average in qualifying, according to Stats Perform's Playing Styles model.

But ultimately Italy got the job done and Mancini applauded his men for not becoming disheartened, instead persisting as they looked to pull Turkey to and fro with quick distribution.

"We had a good match, even in the first half when we couldn't find the goal, we were very good," Mancini continued. "The match was not easy, it was the debut and Turkey is an excellent team.

"We were decisive when we moved the ball quickly and came to the opposite side, freeing the man.

"It was important to start well, it was a satisfaction for all of us, for the present public and for all Italians."

Ciro Immobile thanked his mother for giving him his sense of goal after helping Italy to launch their Euro 2020 campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome.

A dogged, if unambitious, approach from Senol Gunes' side ensured it was 0-0 at the interval at the Stadio Olimpico, but the breakthrough came eight minutes into the second half when Merih Demiral turned Domenico Berardi's powerful cross into his own net.

Lazio striker Immobile was then on hand to convert the rebound from Leonardo Spinazzola's shot – his third consecutive scoring appearance for the Azzurri but a first goal in the finals of a major tournament.

"I want to thank my mother for giving me the sense for being in the right place in the right moment," the 31-year-old said, as quoted by UEFA.com.

Roberto Mancini's side had 63.4 per cent possession and the eventual shot count came in at 24-3, with Immobile's six attempts meaning he had double the amount the entire Turkey team managed over the course of the 90 minutes.

Immobile felt being under pressure for such long periods took a toll on Italy's opponents.

"We showed patience in the first half. Turkey are a strong side and caused problems for many top teams," he said.

"We tried to tire them out, moving the ball left and right and trying to spread them. Unfortunately, we regularly struggled to break their wall.

"Turkey were more tired after the break. After the goal they had to open up some space, so that’s when our quality emerged."

Lorenzo Insigne completed the scoring with a crisp finish – teed up by Immobile – and produced many of those moments of quality.

The Napoli forward had five shots, with two on target and two blocked, and created three chances for team-mates. Only fellow wide attacker Domenico Berardi (five) made more key passes.

"We made a slow start but we managed to recover and score three goals in the second half," Insigne said.

"Mancini told us to remain calm and focused on the game – that’s what we did and, finally, we achieved our goal.

"Our strength is the group; the coach has created a great group in which there are no starters and bench players and each one of us is always ready to sacrifice for our team-mates.

"Winning is the most important thing – if I score, even better. It was a great night."

Italy are off to a flyer at Euro 2020 and added weight to the theory they are serious trophy contenders with Friday's 3-0 win over Turkey.

Merih Demiral's own goal was followed by strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, and the clean sheet means Italy have now not conceded for 875 minutes.

Using Opta data, we take a look at what was the biggest win achieved in any opening match in the history of the European Championship.

Turkey 0-3 Italy: Three and easy for Azzurri

Italy have become used to starting tournaments well – although first they have to qualify, and it stung when they missed out on the 2018 World Cup. They beat England in their 2014 World Cup opener, defeated Belgium at Euro 2016, and showed their early-doors mettle again here.

This 3-0 win gave them the biggest margin of victory in an opening match at a European Championship, but perhaps the hefty victory should not have come as a surprise given Turkey are notoriously slow starters. They have lost their opening match at all seven of their appearances at major tournaments (World Cup and European Championship) – the only nation to play at more than three such tournaments and never avoid defeat first up.

What does it tell us about this reborn Italy? Well, their unbeaten run now stands at 28 games (W23 D5), and the Azzurri have only once enjoyed a longer run, going 30 without defeat between November 1935 and July 1939. Coach Roberto Mancini has worked some kind of wizardry since taking the helm in 2018, and they have now not conceded in their past 875 minutes of football, keeping a clean sheet in nine successive games, their best streak since 10 in a row between November 1989 and June 1990 – the month they headed into Italia 90.

Demiral has an unwanted place in history, scoring the first own-goal opener to a European Championship tournament, and it should have come as no shock to see Immobile get among the goals, given that since joining Lazio in 2016, the striker has scored 92 goals in 118 appearances at the Stadio Olimpico for club and country.

Ultimately, it was a night to savour for Giorgio Chiellini, as the captain became the oldest outfield player to start a match for Italy at a major tournament. At 36 years and 301 days, he went ahead of Fabio Cannavaro's previous record of 36 years and 284 days, set against Slovakia at the 2010 World Cup.

Chiellini was Cannavaro's centre-back partner on that day 11 years ago, a low point for Italy when a 3-2 defeat saw them knocked out of the tournament.

With Italy away to a strong start here, Chiellini will want to substantially extend his newly inherited record over the weeks ahead.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.