Italy head coach Roberto Mancini was delighted his side maintained a high level of performance, despite making eight changes to the starting XI in the 1-0 win over Wales at Euro 2020.

The Azzurri qualified for the last 16 with a perfect record of three wins from three matches in Group A, scoring seven goals without conceding against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina, who was a late addition to Italy's European Championship squad after a groin injury to Stefano Sensi, netted the winner against Wales on Sunday, showcasing the squad's depth.

Mancini made eight changes to the starting line-up for their final group game, after back-to-back 3-0 victories, insisting he needed to inject "fresh strength" ahead of the knockout phase.

"I really like to see that we made eight changes to the team and played very well," Mancini said during a post-game news conference.

"We deserve to score more goals. And it wasn't particularly easy because they defended very well but that's what I was pleased with. The players performed really well to a man."

Italy equalled their best unbeaten run of 30 consecutive games without defeat between 1935 and 1939 under Vittorio Pozzo, while Mancini's men have won 25 and drawn five of their last 30 fixtures since last losing to Portugal in September 2018.

He added: "I would have changed even if the game had been decisive, I needed fresh strength in the game. We had to gain some minutes.

"We are 26 [players], we need them to play and have time to play. It will be a little more difficult to make the choices, yes.

"A lot of players are used to playing big matches, it will be a shame to leave some aside, but we can count on a lot of players, that's the most important thing."

Manuel Locatelli, who scored a double in the 3-0 win over Switzerland, was one of the players to make way against Wales, with Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti getting his first start of the tournament on the left side of midfield.

"I think it's better to have them both available for selection, unfortunately, one of those two good players won't start," Mancini said.

"But that's been the case ever since day one and unfortunately the same goes for the players that didn't make the squad. And that does hurt us all, and the same will go for when we have to make team selection decisions now."

Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.

Juventus forward Federico Chiesa, who was named man of the match, said Italy's best was still to come ahead of their last-16 clash with the runners-up in Group C at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

"We are very excited," Chiesa said. "We're here in the here and now and we're delighted to be here.

"And of course, we will be a test for whoever we come up against in the last-16 and the best is yet to come."

Italy wrapped up a wonderful Group A campaign on Sunday as they overcame Wales 1-0 in Rome. 

The win ensured Italy finished top of their Euro 2020 group, while Wales claimed second place ahead of Switzerland, who eased past Turkey 3-1 in the day's other game.

Vladimir Petkovic's Swiss side will have to wait until the group stage finishes on Wednesday to know if they progress to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed finishers, but a fine display in Baku has put them in a strong position.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the best facts from the two games.

Italy 1-0 Wales: Azzurri match historic record

Italy's superb start to Euro 2020 continued as a third win in as many games sealed top spot in Group A.

Roberto Mancini's side are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (W25 D5) since losing against Portugal in September 2018, equalling the longest unbeaten run in their history, which was set between 1935 and 1939.

The decisive goal against Wales came in the 39th minute, Matteo Pessina becoming the youngest Italian player to score on his first start at a major tournament since Antonio Cassano at Euro 2004.

Welsh hopes of clawing their way back into the game were hit in the second half when Ethan Ampadu saw red.

Aged 20 years and 279 days, Ampadu became the second-youngest player to be sent off in a European Championship match after John Heitinga (20 years 217 days) for the Netherlands against Czech Republic in 2004, while Ampadu is the outright youngest to be shown a straight red.

Wales' failure to find the back of the net means Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.

Wales, however, had cause for celebration as they have now reached the knockout stages in all three of their appearances at major tournaments.

Switzerland 3-1 Turkey: Shaqiri gives Swiss hope of last-16 spot

Switzerland left it late in the group stage but belatedly turned on the style to give their chances of progressing to the knockout stages a significant boost.

It was a wonderful game, full of attacking threat from both sides, and 42 shots were attempted – a record for a group-stage game at the European Championship.

Two of those shots saw Switzerland go in at the break with a healthy lead. Haris Seferovic and Xherdan Shaqiri both scored from outside the penalty area, becoming the first Swiss players to do so at any European Championship, with each of their nine goals in the competition before Sunday coming from inside the area.

Irfan Can Kahveci pulled one back for Turkey, but Shaqiri scored again to become Switzerland's outright top scorer at major tournaments (seven – four at the World Cup and three at the European Championship).

Steven Zuber was the provider for all three of Switzerland's goals, meaning he became only the third player since 1980 to register three assists in a single European Championship game, after Portugal's Rui Costa in 2000 (v England) and Denmark's Michael Laudrup in 1984 (v Yugoslavia).

Turkey, meanwhile, became just the second nation to lose all three group-stage matches at more than one edition of the competition, having also suffered this fate at their debut tournament in 1996. Denmark were the first to suffer that fate, in 1988 and 2000.

Italy's squad are well aware of the different task they will face in the Euro 2020 knockout stages, so says Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri maintained their perfect start to the tournament with a 1-0 win over Wales in Rome on Sunday – Matteo Pessina's first-half goal proving the difference, while the visitors also had Ethan Ampadu sent off.

Italy are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (W25 D5) since losing against Portugal in September 2018, equalling the longest unbeaten run in their history, which was set between 1935 and 1939.

Mancini's team have won their past 11 games and kept a clean sheet in each match, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.

With top spot in Group A sealed, Italy will face either Ukraine or Austria at Wembley in the last 16 on Saturday, and look well placed for a deep run in the competition.

However, Mancini knows complacency cannot set in.

With his suit jacket held casually over his shoulder, Mancini told ITV Sport: "We are happy but we know that after the group stage we start a new European Championship. Now it will be different.

"The guys are very clever. They wanted to win every game, they have a good mentality. I am very happy also for this reason because we changed eight players and played a very good game.

"It is always difficult, I think we played against a good team. Wales are a good team, but it was a deserved win."

Italy had 23 attempts, with six hitting the target – Danny Ward pulling off some fine stops late on to help ensure Wales claimed second place in the group on goal difference.

Gareth Bale missed a golden chance to equalise, but it did not prove costly, and Aaron Ramsey was thrilled to have secured a last-16 berth.

"It was tough, for long periods of that game. We were up against a great team, to go 30 games unbeaten is some achievement, so fair play," the Juventus midfielder told ITV Sport.

"Again, we showed great character This team, you can never question our character. We always give absolutely everything out there.

"We dug in for Ethan, we feel sorry for him, but we had each other's backs out there and finished the job.

"We have a lot of attacking threat, keep games really tight and work hard for each other, so we have a good balance.

"In the first half, we showed glimpses of what we can do against good opposition, kept the ball well, created a couple of opportunities. We just need to be consistent throughout the game in doing that because we have the quality to do it.

"It's just about having the belief to go out there and do that, but we're through in second place, so we're delighted."

Bale added: "We knew it was going to be a very difficult game from the start, a lot of defending, a lot of running, very tight. But I'm proud of the boys, we wanted to try and get a result but it made no difference, we've finished second anyway.

"We have to just recover again now, we've got a bit of a break. Five days to patch everyone up and get going again."

Wales will face whichever team finishes second in Group B in Amsterdam on Saturday.

There was a handy demonstration of the depth of quality Italy have on their bench early in the first half at the Stadio Olimpico.

Wales defender Ethan Ampadu – in what would prove not to be his worst contribution to a 1-0 defeat – booted a pass out of play near the halfway line. As it bounced past Roberto Mancini, the Azzurri coach flicked an expensively leathered heel behind him to bring the ball under control.

The crowd roared, in the palm of Mancini's hand and the lap of a feelgood factor engendered by the standout team of the group stage. It was a reminder of the velvet touch that defined Mancini's playing days at Sampdoria and Lazio and there is plenty of that sort of thing to go around in his squad.

Nicolo Barella starred in the back-to-back 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland, showing plenty of the form that led Mancini to label him a "complete player" and one of the potential stars of Euro 2020.

Then Manuel Locatelli enjoyed a night he can dine out on for the rest of his days, scoring a stylish brace against Switzerland to set Europe's big hitters on high alert for the Sassuolo midfielder.

Injury robbed Mancini of the lavishly gifted Lorenzo Pellegrini, but even if the Roma playmaker had been available, it would have been tricky to imagine a situation where Marco Verratti would have a fight on his hands to win a place in the starting XI for the knockout stages.

 

Fitness woes are a near-permanent feature of Verratti's career and he headed into the tournament with work to do. A knee complaint was his 10th setback of the 2020-21 season, including two positive tests for coronavirus.

In the Paris Saint-Germain star's absence, Barella and Locatelli made hay. A rotated line-up for Sunday's final Group A assignment gave Verratti a chance to shine and he made sure not to let it slip by.

A twinkled-toed shuffle around Aaron Ramsey drew a fitting "oohhhh" from the crowd, who had been content to boo any previous involvement from Wales' Juventus man.

Of course, when Verratti is at his best, opposition midfielders can feel as meaningfully involved as those in the stands.

There was some lovely tight control and a fizzed shot wide before the half hour, belying the tell-tale blue tape on his right knee. Joe Allen got close enough to Verratti to foul as half-time approached and he clipped a delightful free-kick to the near post, where Matteo Pessina found a finish to match for the decisive goal.

After Amapdu's red card for a stamping 55th-minute challenge on Federico Bernardeschi, Wales dug in manfully – Joe Rodon again superb at the heart of defence with a team-high six clearances and two interceptions – to avert the threat of Switzerland overhauling them in the second automatic qualifying spot on goal difference.

Gareth Bale even flashed a glorious chance to equalise narrowly over on the volley, after which Verratti slid in to win possession inside his own half and launch another Italy attack, one of his four successful tackles.

By full-time, he had created five chances, including the goal, and completed a fairly absurd 103 out of 110 passes (93.6 per cent) – 70 of those coming in the opposition half, while three of Verratti's four crosses were successful.

 

Reserve goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu replacing Gianluigi Donnarumma for the final minutes was another demonstration of the close bond and team spirit fostered by Mancini in his Italy camp, as were the now familiar mass celebrations on the sidelines for Pessina's winner.

That atmosphere might mean a player of Verratti's ample talents can accept a return to the bench with good grace, after a performance that made sure of three wins out of three and gave Mancini a useful problem. For everyone else in the tournament, an Italy side on a record-equalling 30 game unbeaten run just look like a problem.

Italy kept up their outstanding form as Roberto Mancini's men made it three wins from as many games at Euro 2020 with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Wales.

With progression from Group A already assured, Mancini named a much-changed side in Rome, but the Azzurri's squad depth was on show on Sunday.

Indeed, it was one of Italy's new faces who got the winner – Matteo Pessina becoming the youngest Italian player to score on his first start at a major tournament since Antonio Cassano at Euro 2004. Pessina's moment came with a neat flick in the 39th minute.

Wales' comeback hopes appeared to have been dashed when Ethan Ampadu saw red, although Gareth Bale then missed a golden chance. Yet Italy sealed an 11th straight win and made it 30 games unbeaten in the process to match a long-standing national record.

One of eight Italy changes, Andrea Belotti went close to connecting with an acrobatic attempt early on, before the Torino striker flashed a low strike across goal in the 24th minute.

In search of his first Wales goal on his 102nd cap, Chris Gunter headed over from Daniel James' corner, but Italy made the breakthrough six minutes before half-time.

Joe Allen fouled Marco Verratti out on the right, with the Paris Saint-Germain playmaker floating in a cross which was met by Pessina, whose deft flick found the bottom-left corner.

Wales had a let-off after the break – Federico Bernardeschi hitting the base of the left-hand post with a long-range free-kick.

A mistake from Francesco Acerbi gave Aaron Ramsey a chance, but he failed to get a shot off, and Wales were soon down to 10 when Ampadu caught Bernardeschi late and received a rather harsh straight red.

Danny Ward made a brilliant save to deny Belotti, and Bale should have made Italy pay for their profligacy, but he lashed over on the volley with only Gianluigi Donnarumma to beat.

Ward's save counted in the end, however, with Wales securing second place in the group thanks to a better goal difference than Switzerland, who beat Turkey in Baku.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini compared Wales to Stoke City as he predicted a difficult final Euro 2020 group game for the Azzurri.

Consecutive 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland mean Italy are already sure of a place in the last 16 and will be guaranteed to top Group A if they avoid defeat in Rome on Sunday.

Wales, meanwhile, drew with Switzerland before producing a fine 2-0 win over Turkey that means they need only a point to progress to the knockouts.

Italy are undeniably favourites to win the game, having secured 10 consecutive victories without conceding a goal. Should they avoid defeat, they will match their all-time record of 30 games in a row unbeaten, which was set between November 1935 and July 1939.

Mancini expects Wales to present a very difficult challenge, though, much like Stoke during his days as Manchester City manager: in eight Premier League games, Mancini managed four wins and four draws against the Potters.

 

"Stoke had a very tough style of play, they were a very tough nut to crack," Mancini said on Saturday.

"It will be a very difficult match from a physical perspective because they are a powerful side like Stoke, but they are also very technical.

"Wales have players like [Joe] Allen, [Gareth] Bale and [Daniel] James. They have got some quality and skilful players."

Mancini will rotate his side for the game at the Stadio Olimpico, with Marco Verratti in line for his first performance of the tournament after recovering from a knee problem.

"Tomorrow night will be our third game and we would have rotated regardless, even if this was a must-win fixture," he said. "A third game in the space of 10 days with 30-degree heat, you need fresh legs out there.

"Marco needs to play. Until today, after so many days of training, he is fine."

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."

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.

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."

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.

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."

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."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

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.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- 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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