Italy will aim to equal their all-time unbeaten record of 30 matches and finish top of Euro 2020 Group A when they face Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

The Azzurri have won their opening two matches by the same 3-0 scoreline against Turkey and Switzerland, making it 10 wins in a row in all competitions without conceding.

Roberto Mancini's side are already assured of a place in the last 16, but they require a point against second-placed Wales to make certain of top spot.

However, victory will be the target for Italy on home soil as they look to match their previous record for games without defeat, set between November 1935 and July 1939.

Mancini has indicated he will rotate his side with the knockout stages in mind, but experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini has warned Italy cannot take Wales lightly.

 

"They are a great team," said Chiellini, who is not expected to play any part in the match. "Wales have been playing together for many years and we know them well. 

"There have been many small changes but never revolutions, so they are tough opponents."

Wales are practically through to the last 16 after drawing with Switzerland and beating Turkey in their two games, but need a point in the Italian capital to seal the deal.

The Euro 2016 semi-finalists do not have the best of records against Italy, though, losing seven of their previous nine meetings and failing to score in three attempts on Italian soul.

But winger Daniel James is relishing the chance to end Italy's long-running unbeaten run, which spans back to September 2018.

"Italy are a great team, but we have to go in believing we can win. We will do our analysis, and we will go there with our heads held high," he said.

"They've had a great run going into this tournament, but we want to win every game and we fully believe that we can do that."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Marco Verratti

Verratti was not even named in Italy's squad for their opening two games as he continues to recover from an injury sustained with Paris Saint-Germain, but Mancini has hinted he will play a part on Sunday.

Manuel Locatelli has starred in Verratti's absence, becoming the third youngest Italy player to score a brace at a major tournament with his double against Switzerland.

But PSG midfielder Verratti has been one of the key men in Italy's remarkable turnaround after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Mancini will be eager to get him back to full fitness.

Wales – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale skied a penalty in Wales' 2-0 win against Turkey, becoming the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a spot-kick at the Euros since Raul for Spain against France in 2000.

The Real Madrid forward more than made amends for that, however, by assisting goals for Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts in a well-earned win for the Dragons.

He created five big chances across the 90 minutes in Baku – the most by a player at the Euros since such records were recorded in 1980.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Italy and Wales' latest encounter was 18 years ago, in a European Championship qualifier back in September 2003. On that day, Filippo Inzaghi scored his one and only hat-trick with the Italian national team (4-0).

- Wales have made it out of the group stages in their previous two appearances at a major tournament (1958 World Cup, Euro 2016). If they avoid defeat in this game, they are guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages.

- Italy are looking to win all three of their group-stage matches for the fourth time at a major tournament, previously doing so at the 1978 and 1990 World Cups, and at Euro 2000.

- The Azzurri have gone 965 minutes without conceding, scoring 31 goals without reply in that run.

- If he keeps a clean sheet, Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma would be the youngest keeper to earn shutouts in three consecutive games at the Euros (22y 115d on the day of the game).

Federico Chiesa has told Italy supporters they should dare to dream of Euro 2020 glory – because Roberto Mancini has got the Azzurri thinking the same way.

On Sunday, Italy will attempt to make it 30 games without defeat when they tackle Wales in Rome.

Doing so would mean Italy equal their all-time longest unbeaten run, previously achieved between November 1935 and July 1939.

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have been revitalised under head coach Mancini, and 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland mean their place in the last-16 of this European Championship is already assured.

"The fans are right to dream and we are right with them," Chiesa said in a news conference. "We are here to try to go all the way and to fulfil this great dream."

Winger Chiesa, the son of former Italy striker Enrico Chiesa, has made two substitute appearances so far, playing 30 minutes.

With Mancini expected to rest some key players, Chiesa could get his chance from the start against Wales.

"The coach asks us to be ready. When he calls me I will be ready, we are all starters and we must be ready to play," Chiesa said.

"I know inside of me how to live through this moment, there is a fantastic energy, electricity, the atmosphere is great and it's thanks to the coach."

Italy are looking to win all three of their group stage matches for the fourth time at a major finals, previously doing so at the 1978 and 1990 World Cups, and at Euro 2000.

Their confidence stems not only from the ongoing 29-game unbeaten streak, but the way they have stepped up their level lately.

They have won their last 10 games, keeping a clean sheet every time. In all, they have gone 965 minutes without conceding, scoring 31 goals without reply over this run.

Chiesa has earmarked Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey as the main threats within the Wales ranks.

Real Madrid winger Bale is "above all" the player that Italy should be watching out for, Chiesa indicated.

In Wales' 2-0 win over Turkey on Wednesday, Bale became the first player to create five big chances in a match at the European Championship since 1980, the earliest date for which Opta has such data available.

Opta defines a big chance as 'a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score', and two of those five opportunities against Turkey were converted, with Ramsey and Connor Roberts the beneficiaries of Bale's brilliance.

Ramsey is a team-mate of Chiesa at Juventus, and the Italy wide man said: "He is a very intelligent and very technically strong player. He has quality, unfortunately this season he was hit by injuries. We are also friends off the pitch."

Roberto Mancini said that Domenico Berardi and Manuel Locatelli did "what I'm always asking them to do" in combining for Italy's first goal in a 3-0 win over Switzerland.

The result, which came courtesy of a Locatelli brace and a third goal added by Ciro Immobile, confirmed Italy's place in the knockout stage of Euro 2020 after just two games played.

Mancini's men dominated the contest at Stadio Olimpico and were rewarded with a second consecutive 3-0 victory, having beaten Turkey by the same scoreline in their opening Group A match.

Mancini hailed his side's performance, telling reporters: "Switzerland are a strong side. We knew it would be a tough game and it was.

"We created several chances and we deserved the victory. We were struggling in the opening minutes, but then we pressed them high and forced them to make mistakes.

"The lads did really well. It wasn't easy; it was their second game in five days and it's so hot."

He picked out his side's opening goal for special praise, having seen Locatelli start the move in midfield before latching onto Berardi's cross to score from close range.

"This is exactly what the lads have to do, what I'm always asking them to do," said Mancini.

"Always believe that it can be the right chance, as Locatelli did by following the action after his pass to Berardi in midfield."

Mancini's opposite number Vladimir Petkovic faces an uphill struggle to progress from Group A, having taken one point from their games against Wales and Italy.

Switzerland face Turkey in Baku in their final group game, and Petkovic said they must remain committed to their task.

"Many things didn't work for us tonight, and plenty worked for Italy. The truth lies in the middle," he said. 

"Congratulations to Italy – they play great football, and have for some time.

"Everyone deserves to be disappointed tonight, but tomorrow from the first training session we move on. I spoke to the team and told them there's a match left, and three points could get us to the next round."

Roberto Mancini took over Italy's national team with the Azzurri at their lowest ebb. Absent from the 2018 World Cup after failing to qualify for the first time since 1958, Italy required a rebuild, with Mancini trusted to be the architect.

To use perhaps the most exhausted of cliches, Rome wasn't built in a day. But, at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday, Mancini saw his efforts in reconstructing this perennial power of international football bear fruit as Italy became the first team to book their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020.

Following a dazzling performance in the tournament's opening fixture that saw them sweep aside Turkey 3-0 last Friday, Italy were similarly superb here, making light work of Switzerland as Manuel Locatelli's double sealed a triumph by the same scoreline.

The contrast between the team that progressed to the knockouts in front of a delighted if relatively small and socially distanced home crowd and the one that was held to a 0-0 draw by Sweden in the second leg of the World Cup qualification play-off in 2017 is stark.

Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho and Ciro Immobile were all in the starting XI on that chastening night at San Siro and were picked by Mancini to help Italy past Vladimir Petkovic's side, though Chiellini had to withdraw through injury in the first half shortly after seeing what looked to be the opening goal chalked off by VAR for handball.

Yet there are key differences in both personnel and system. Whereas Gian Piero Ventura played a 3-5-2 with wingbacks Alessandro Florenzi and Matteo Darmian asked to provide both defensive protection and attacking creativity from wide areas with Immobile paired with the often immobile Manolo Gabbiadini, Mancini continues to get results from a much more expansive 4-3-3.

In that set-up on Wednesday, Immobile thrived playing in a front three alongside the energetic presences of Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi, taking a game-high four shots and becoming the first player to score in Italy's first two games at a major tournament since Christian Vieri at the 2002 World Cup as he rounded off an excellent display.

Behind that trio, Jorginho -- who had patrolled the middle of the park along with two players in their 30s in Marco Parolo and Antonio Candreva against Sweden -- had the 24-year-old Nicolo Barella and 23-year-old Locatelli for company in midfield.

 

And it was Sassuolo team-mates Berardi and Locatelli who shone brightest on this latest showcase of Italy's credentials as contenders for the title.

That duo have been pivotal to one of the most entertaining sides in Serie A, Berardi creating 58 chances for Sassuolo while Locatelli teed up 38.

Their understanding was there for all to see when Italy did open the scoring after Switzerland's earlier reprieve. Locatelli volleyed the ball out to the right to Berardi, who surged down the flank before pulling back for his club-mate, whose desire to charge into the box from inside his own half was rewarded with a tap-in.

Berardi has now been involved in five goals in his last six appearances for Italy, but it was Barella who teed Locatelli up for one of the fiercest strikes of the competition so far as he powered into the bottom-left corner to become Italy's third-youngest scorer of a brace at a major tournament behind Giacomo Bulgarelli (v Switzerland in 1962) and Mario Balotelli (v Germany in 2012).

Immobile added the finishing touches, with help from poor goalkeeping from Yann Sommer, as Italy made it 31 goals without reply in all competitions, a 10th successive clean sheet never threatened by an uninspiring Switzerland team.

Those two statistics illustrate just how drastic the turnaround has been under Mancini. Italy could not muster a goal over two legs against Sweden in 2017, now they attack with verve and incisiveness that suggests they could score each time they go forward.

With the old guard still as dependable as ever at the back, Italy have a solid spine and a crop of talented playmakers that have helped revitalise a team that looked to be a fading force in international football. Turkey and Switzerland have offered little in way of a challenge to Mancini's men, but that combination could be one that makes this delayed European Championship worth the wait for the Azzurri.

Roberto Mancini's Italy side scored three goals once again as they stormed into the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a 3-0 rout of Switzerland.

Italy leapfrogged Wales to the top of Group A, with Robert Page's team having beat Turkey earlier on Wednesday to give themselves a great chance of making the knockout stages.

Gareth Bale was heavily involved, teeing up both of Wales' goals either side of missing a penalty.

Elsewhere, Russia beat Finland 1-0 in Saint Petersburg to inject life into their hopes in Group B.

Italy 3-0 Switzerland: Mancini's Azzurri in rampant form

It is now 10 wins on the bounce for Italy, with 10 clean sheets to boot, and Mancini is just one game away from matching the all-time Azzurri record of 30 games unbeaten, set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.

Remarkably, Italy had never scored three goals in a Euros match before their win over Turkey on Friday. Their successive 3-0 victories make them only the second side in European Championship history to open their tournament with consecutive wins by a three-goal margin, after the Netherlands in 2008 (3-0 v Italy, 4-1 v France).

Manuel Locatelli's double – his first for club or country – put the hosts in control at Stadio Olimpico. Only Giacomo Bulgarelli (v Switzerland in 1962) and Mario Balotelli (v Germany in 2012) have scored a brace for Italy at a major tournament at a younger age than the Sassuolo midfielder (23 years, 159 days).

Ciro Immobile rounded the win off late on with his second goal of the tournament. 

The Lazio star is the first player to score in Italy's opening two games of a major tournament since Christian Vieri at the 2002 World Cup.

Turkey 0-2 Wales: Bale spares his own blushes

Excluding penalty shootouts, Bale became the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a penalty at the Euros since Raul did so for Spain against France at the 2000 tournament when the Wales captain blazed over from 12 yards midway through the second half in Baku.

Bale had previously set up Aaron Ramsey for Wales' opener in a frantic Group A clash, playing a fantastic pass over Turkey's defence – one of four chances the duo created for each other.

The 31-year-old, who created five chances in total, the record in a Euros game since at least 1980, atoned for his miss in style, charging in from a stoppage-time corner to tee up Connor Roberts to settle the contest and put Wales well in with a shout of a last-16 place.

Only world champions France (six) have won more games across Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 than Wales, who have now triumphed in five of their eight matches in the competition, boasting the highest winning percentage of all sides to have played at any European Championships (63).

Wales remain unbeaten in their six matches across all competitions in Baku (W4 D2), keeping clean sheets in each victory, while no side has suffered more defeats in the group stages of the competition than Turkey (nine, level with Russia).

Finland 0-1 Russia: Miranchuk ends goal drought 

Aleksey Miranchuk scored his first goal for Russia since November 2019 – a run of nine appearances – to secure the three points against Finland in Wednesday's early game.

The win keeps Russia's chances of qualifying for the knockout stages alive, and a Denmark victory over Belgium on Thursday would throw Group B wide open.

It was Russia's first win at the Euros since they beat the Czech Republic in 2012 (4-1) – ending a six-match winless run in the competition.

Miranchuk's goal, timed at 46:21, came after the longest wait for a shot on target in a game at Euro 2020 so far.

Since 1980, only Sweden at Euro 2016 (0) have managed fewer shots on target in their opening two games of a single European Championships tournament than Finland (two).

Italy became the first team to reach the Euro 2020 knockout stage after Manuel Locatelli scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Switzerland in Group A.

Locatelli scored in-form Italy's 29th goal without reply to put them ahead at Stadio Olimpico, where Switzerland failed to land a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

The Sassuolo midfielder struck again early in the second half and Ciro Immobile added a third to ensure the scoreline reflected their dominance on a night when Roberto Mancini's men showed their 3-0 opening-game win over Turkey was no flash in the pan.

Switzerland must beat Turkey in their final group game to retain hope of finishing in the top two in Group A, while Italy can rest players when they face Wales.

Giorgio Chiellini had the ball in the net after 18 minutes but his close-range strike was ruled out for handball in the build-up following a VAR review, before the veteran defender left the field with a hamstring injury.

Italy deservedly took the lead after 25 minutes when Jorginho set Domenico Berardi free down the right and he crossed for Locatelli to score with a low finish from six yards.

The second half was just six minutes old when Locatelli struck again, collecting Nicola Barella's pass on the edge of the Switzerland penalty area before unleashing a left-footed drive into the net.

Gianluigi Donnarumma made a strong low save to prevent Steven Zuber from scoring with an angled close-range drive in what proved to be the nearest Switzerland would come to finding the net.

With one minute left on the clock, Immobile scored from just outside the box with a powerful right-footed shot, becoming the first player to score in Italy's opening two games at a major tournament since Christian Vieri at the 2002 World Cup.

What does it mean? Italy impenetrable, even without Chiellini

Italy have gone 965 minutes without conceding a goal, and they are building a formidable finals campaign on the firmest of foundations at Euro 2020.

Francesco Acerbi represented a seamless replacement for Chiellini, who can now be given a breather ahead of the knockout stage as he recovers from injury.

Locatelli at the double

Italy proved they are a team with goals throughout as Locatelli became their third player to score a brace at the Euros after Mario Balotelli against Germany in 2012 and Pierluigi Casiraghi against Russia in 1996.

Locatelli is the first player to score from outside the box for Italy at the Euros since Andrea Pirlo did so against Croatia in 2012.

Seferovic's struggle continues

Haris Seferovic has now made six appearances in European Championships but has yet to score, and failed to add to his 13 tournament shots before he was replaced by Mario Gavranovic at the start of the second half.

What's next?

Italy are back in the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday as they face Wales, while Switzerland travel to Baku to take on Turkey in their final Group A match.

Roberto Mancini has no doubt in his Italy side's ability to improve during Euro 2020, despite the Azzurri starting their campaign in emphatic fashion.

Italy beat Turkey 3-0 in Rome on Friday in the tournament's opening match – Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne scoring after Merih Demiral had put through his own net.

The Azzurri have won their last nine games, keeping a clean sheet in all of those encounters, while Mancini is closing in on Vittorio Pozzo's record of 30 games unbeaten, with his Italy team just two shy on 28.

They will be looking to increase those respective records on Wednesday, with Switzerland next up at the Stadio Olimpico. Indeed, a win would be enough to ensure Italy's progression from Group A.

"The Turkey game was difficult," Mancini told a news conference. "But when we scored, they opened up. We will have to win the next one and if possible also the next one. We have to do our best.

"I am confident. This is an excellent team that can only improve. If the bookmakers say Italy are favourites, we accept it because they get it right, but the championship is still long. We have much work to do."

Italy failed to qualify for World Cup 2018, and Leonardo Bonucci knows the squad must remain humble if they are to avoid a slip up.

"Three years ago was a real low point for us," he said. "Humility and keeping your feet on the ground are the secrets to competing like we did against Turkey.

"We have always reset after great wins, continuing to do our duty. The desire to return to the national team is back. It is thanks to the coach, we came from a dark place."

Yet the spirit in Italy's camp has left Bonucci full of hope.

He added: "This is the greatest team spirit I have encountered. At no time have there been any issues in the squad. It is a very tight group and it is little wonder then that we are getting results."

Bonucci has also been impressed by England – Gareth Southgate's team having beat Croatia 1-0 in their Group D opener on Sunday.

"Besides the teams that still need to play – who will of course impress us because they are all top countries – England have really stood out to me," he said.

"For the approach they showed, the way they were willing to work hard for one another, England are the team that have impressed me most so far."

Behind Bonucci, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championships to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22 years, 111 days on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).

Donnarumma is set to leave Milan upon the expiration of his contract this month, with Paris Saint-Germain heavily linked – speculation emerging this week that the goalkeeper will undergo his medical while on Italy duty.

It is a move which Mancini believes would be good for one of Europe's best shot-stoppers.

"I don't know what will happen, as I haven't talked to him about it," said Mancini. "Donnarumma is a great goalkeeper. If he were to go to PSG, it would be a good choice, as this is a big club."

Switzerland will aim to defeat Italy for the first time in 28 years on Wednesday and breathe new life into their Euro 2020 campaign.

The Azzurri were in impressive form as they opened the tournament with a 3-0 defeat of Turkey, extending their recent run to nine consecutive victories without conceding a goal.

Switzerland dominated much of their Group A opener against Wales but saw a Kieffer Moore header cancel out Breel Embolo's opener in Baku.

That result means Vladimir Petkovic's side could become the first team in European Championship history to draw five consecutive matches should they fail to beat Italy.

History is not on their side – Switzerland last defeated Italy in Bern in World Cup qualifying in 1993.

Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini was playing that day and is wary of underestimating their opponents at Stadio Olimpico, particularly with Petkovic having had two years experience at this very venue while in charge of Lazio from 2012 to 2014.

"We know Switzerland are a team who have always caused problems for Italy," said Mancini. "They're in the top 10 or 12 of the rankings and have been for a number of years, and they have a coach in Vladimir Petkovic who knows Italian football inside out.

"It was their opening game, it was very hot, so I think they struggled because of that. We also have them in our group for World Cup qualifying so we know they're a good team, full of talented, skilful players, so we need to produce a flawless performance and make sure we don't make any mistakes."

Marco Verratti could be fit enough for a place on the bench after missing the win over Turkey, although full-back Alessandro Florenzi is expected to miss out after sustaining a knock.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Leonardo Spinazzola

Among defenders, only Denzel Dumfries (six) attempted more dribbles than Spinazzola (five) before Tuesday's matches, while only three players in his position completed more final-third passes than the Roma full-back (20).

Supporting Lorenzo Insigne down the left, Spinazzola offers a substantial threat against a Switzerland side with just three clean sheets in their past 10 Euros matches.

Switzerland – Breel Embolo

Any hope of penetrating the Italy defence is likely to come through Embolo, who scored Switzerland's opener in the 1-1 draw with Wales.

No player had more shots (six) or more on target (three) in that game in Azerbaijan. He also had 10 touches in the opposition box, more than any player in the first four days of action – except, once again, for Dumfries (11).

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first encounter between Italy and Switzerland in the European Championship. However, they have met in two previous major tournaments: in the 1954 World Cup (as hosts, Switzerland won both games: a group stage match and a play-off) and the 1962 World Cup (Italy won 3-0 in Chile, also in the group stages).
- Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5): it was a friendly in October 1982 at Rome's Stadio Olimpico (0-1), in what was Italy's first game after being crowned world champions three months previously.
- Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Azzurri have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the finals, doing so in 2000 and 2016.
- Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championship to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22y 111d on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).
- Switzerland's Haris Seferovic has had 13 shots in five appearances at the European Championship, including four in the first half of their 1-1 draw with Wales. However, he is yet to score in the competition.

Italy forward Andrea Belotti said winning Euro 2020 is the aim for the Azzurri following their winning start.

Roberto Mancini's Italy opened the rescheduled European Championship with a commanding 3-0 victory over Turkey in Rome on Friday.

Italy – enjoying a resurgence under head coach Mancini following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – are in the midst of a 28-match unbeaten streak as they prepare for Wednesday's clash with Switzerland in the Italian capital.

The 1968 European champions have kept a clean sheet in each of their last nine matches in all competitions, going 875 minutes without conceding since a Donny van de Beek goal for the Netherlands last October – Italy have not kept 10 consecutive clean sheets since doing so between November 1989 and June 1990.

"We believe in it, that's our target, we hit rock bottom by not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and now we want to win this competition," Torino's Belotti told UEFA.com.

"We know we can do it, but we need to keep our feet on the ground and work together, focused on the target, in every game. That's the only way we can reach the final."

Italy have lost only one of their 24 games against Switzerland on Italian soil (W18 D5) – a friendly defeat at the Stadio Olimpico in 1982, in what was the country's first game after being crowned world champions three months prior.

Victory will see Italy become the first team to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020. However, the Italians have won both of their opening two matches in just two of their nine previous appearances at the European Championship, doing so in 2000 and 2016.

"There is a great sense of belonging, we all know how important this shirt is and how important it is to do well after hitting rock bottom by not qualifying for the World Cup," Belotti added.

"We know which one is our duty and we also have a great desire for redemption, that's why we always want to give something more.

"We know that we are all important, regardless if we start on the bench. The games last 90 minutes and anything can happen."

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.

It was hard to think of a way to top the spine-tingling gravitas of Andrea Bocelli performing Nessun Dorma on a balmy Rome evening.

The organisers of Euro 2020 clearly felt it best not to try not to compete, so sent the matchball for Italy's 3-0 win over Turkey out to the Stadio Olimpico pitch via a remote-control car.

The restricted 16,000-crowd cheered the presence of UEFA's questionable accessory – the sort of thing a "fun" uncle might stick under the tree at Christmas – but then they gave full-throated appreciation to everything. After a 12-month delay and unimaginable heartache in the wider world, Euro 2020 was here.

Especially during those dark early months of the coronavirus pandemic when sport stopped, we all took solace in nostalgia and re-runs of great deeds from the past. The 25th anniversary of Euro 96 resonates particularly loudly in England as Gareth Southgate's Three Lions prepare to start their campaign against Croatia on Sunday.

In Italy, and also in the wider world's romantic view of Italian football, Italia 90 still frames an era. Yes, they reached the 1994 World Cup final and won their fourth world title in 2006, but for supporters of a certain generation, the Azzurri are indelibly linked to that fondly remembered World Cup on home soil.

Italy won all five of their games at the Stadio Olimpico in the 1990 World Cup before suffering semi-final heartbreak against Argentina on Diego Maradona's Stadio San Paolo stomping ground in Naples.

This was the beginning of a period when the Italian game reigned supreme. Arrigo Sacchi's great Milan side were in their pomp and the cream of global talent made for the glamour and riches of Serie A.

Mancini's revolution

It is safe to say Roberto Mancini inherited a fairly different situation in 2018. Italy had failed to qualify for Russia 2018. Far from ruling the world, this was simply the end of the world for a proud footballing nation.

In the former Inter and Manchester City boss, though, they happened upon the ideal figure to lead a redemption tale. A lavishly gifted forward during his playing days at Sampdoria and Lazio, Mancini's international career was one of frustration and fallouts. He spent most of Italia 90 as an unused substitute, having had the misfortune of sharing an era with the masterful Roberto Baggio.

Although such echoes of the past will always sound when Italy play on the biggest stages, Mancini has propelled a team injected with youthful exuberance into the modern era, playing high-tempo, high-pressing football – all slickness and angles in possession.

They had to look for the most acute pockets during a first half of one-way traffic against a packed defence. Turkey, tipped by many as dark horses before the tournament, turned up as the stable doors.

 

By the interval it remained bolted, despite Italy managing 14 shots to their opponents' zero. Turkey striker Burak Yilmaz, the talismanic hero of Lille's Ligue 1 title success was reduced to seven touches in the opening 45 minutes and a comedic dive that brought something approaching a look of pity from Giorgio Chiellini.

Great centre-backs of previous Italian vintages have been the foundation stone, but Mancini's Azzurri are built on cute midfielders who treasure the ball. Jorginho (76 of 81 passes completed) was at his metronomic best as Nicolo Barella (56 passes in the Turkey half second only to Jorginho's 59) and Manuel Locatelli probed for openings.

They combined to establish a relentless supply line to Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne. Either side of striker Ciro Immobile, the two wide attackers chipped away at the red wall until it came crashing down just before the hour when fatigue took hold of Senol Gunes' painfully unambitious side – perhaps not the last time we will see such an approach in a tournament that rewards third-place finishers in the group stage.

Azzurri winging it

Left-back Umut Meras took a tired stumble when Berardi – whose five chances created were more than any other Italy player – ran at him again in the 53rd minute. The Sassuolo winger's uncompromising thump across the goalmouth thudded into Merih Demiral and in. OWNGOLAZO! It almost looked as silly as a ball on a remote-control car.

Immobile was the intended recipient of Berardi's work but Lazio's master poacher was not about to be denied in his house, snaffling the rebound from Leonardo Spinazzola's shot to score in a third consecutive Italy appearance. His first goal in a major tournament was one very much out of the Salvatore Schillaci handbook.

 

Of course, it would not be a vintage Italy performance without the number 10 coming to the party. Insigne collected Immobile's pass after a poor clearance from bedraggled Turkey goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to find a crisp finish and the goal his shimmering efforts deserved.

If a pre-match serenade from Bocelli laid it on thick, how about a last-ditch, fist-pumping tackle from an Italy centre-back? Naturally, Chiellini found one of those to thwart Yilmaz in stoppage time, revelling in his work and another clean sheet earned.

But Mancini's Azzurri do not need to linger on a celebrated past. This was an authoritative statement from a team for the here and now.

Italy made a commanding return to major tournament football as they opened Euro 2020 with a comfortable 3-0 win over Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Friday.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have since rebuilt under Roberto Mancini, who appears to have transformed them into a credible force that dealt with one of the competition's supposed dark horses with relative ease.

Not that it was all plain sailing, however. Andrea Bocelli's pre-match rendition of 'Nessun Dorma' – or 'let no one sleep' in English – was seemingly not heeded amid a dour first half, though one flashpoint just before the interval saw Italy denied a penalty.

Mancini's side eventually opened the scoring soon after half-time as Juventus defender Merih Demiral scored an own goal and, given the lack of threat posed by Turkey, subsequent strikes from Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne were probably not even necessary.

Turkey relied on counter-attacks 26 per cent more than the average in qualifying, according to Stats Perform's Playing Styles model, and their deep set-up contributed to a cagey opening.

But Italy started to probe with greater intent and saw Insigne shoot just after a one-two with Immobile in the 17th minute, before Giorgio Chiellini – now the oldest outfielder to ever start a major tournament game for the Azzurri – drew a stunning save from Ugurcan Cakir with a powerful header.

Turkey were then arguably fortunate not to concede a penalty just before half-time, VAR deeming there to be no clear error when Zeki Celik handled Leonardo Spinazzola's cross.

Although Cengiz Under was introduced at the break, Turkey's gameplan showed no change and Italy deservedly made the breakthrough in the 53rd minute as Domenico Berardi left Umut Meras on his backside and smashed the ball across goal, with Demiral diverting it into his own net.

Cakir could not hold on to Spinazzola's shot and Immobile was on hand to coolly tap in the rebound to make in 2-0 just past the hour.

And Insigne wrapped things up 11 minutes from time, curling home after being teed up by Immobile as the Azzurri netted three times in a single game for the first time in European Championship finals history.

Roberto Mancini struck a confident note as he set his Italy team the target of a semi-final berth on the eve of the European Championship.

The Azzurri will contest the very first game of the tournament when they face Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Friday.

As a result of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it is in fact five years since the Italians featured at a major tournament.

But, having avoided defeat in their last 27 outings, Italy are among the favourites to go all the way at the tournament.

And the former Manchester City boss was in no mood to play down their chances, preferring instead to set his sights on a trip to Wembley in the last four.

"I think after everything we have gone through, now is the time to try and put a smile back on faces,” he told reporters.

"That will be our aim over the next month, we want people to enjoy themselves and have fun. I think it will be a wonderful time for everyone over 90 minutes, we will give it everything.

"The opening match is the hardest one, above all at the start of the tournament. We have to be free and try to have fun, that should be the aim.

"I was confident three years ago and I am more confident now. We have worked very well, we have excellent players and have forged a great team spirit.

"We have been working together for a long while and have enjoyed ourselves and want to go on enjoying ourselves. Come the end of the tournament we would love to make it to London."

Italy's hopes were dealt a blow on Thursday when it emerged that Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini had been forced out of the squad by injury.

Asked about that news, Mancini added: "We are gutted for Lorenzo because he is an important player and could operate in several positions.

"It is disappointing how it came about as he was on form. We're very disappointed for him as a player and a person and it's sad to leave the Italy squad on the final day."

Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini still bears the scars of the 2017 play-off defeat to Sweden that confirmed he and his countrymen would not be at the last World Cup.

And he is determined to exorcise the ghosts of that disappointment by putting on a strong showing at the Euros.

"We are very keen to bounce back and play a starring role in a major competition," he said.

"That defeat to Sweden at San Siro is still with us and we can't erase that, but we have been able to transform that disappointment into enthusiasm and a desire to do well.

"That feeling is not just in us but with all the national team fans. You wouldn't believe how many friends and family are galvanised by the national team, waiting for this game that has been missing for five years. We are aware of that and can't wait to get out there and experience those emotions."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.