Rome (AFP) – Italy got their Euro 2020 campaign out of the box with an impressive 3-0 victory over Turkey in the curtain of the postponed continental tournament in front of their home fans in Rome on Friday.
When they played their first major tournament in five years after not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, all the goals in the second half came in front of a Stadio Olimpico that was filled to a quarter of its capacity.
Merih Demiral’s own goal put Italy ahead before Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne netted for Roberto Mancini’s side in the Group A opening.
The victory limited an emotional night in the Italian capital, with 16,000 fans returning to the Stadio Olimpico.
“It was important to start well in Rome and I think it is a satisfaction for the public and for the Italians,” said Mancini, whose side are now on an unbeaten run in 28 matches.
“There was a lot of help from the crowd. It was a beautiful evening, I hope there are many others, but there are still six more to Wembley. ”
“We were hoping for another result, but Italy were dominant,” said Turkish coach Senol Gunes.
“The first goal changed things in the second half and we lost control of the game.”
There was a festive atmosphere with a spectacular sound and light show and fireworks before the kick-off for the opening of the month-long 24-team event that will be played in 11 countries.
There was a performance by the Italian National Police Orchestra, a parade of huge inflatable balloons on the field, tenor Andrea Bocelli sang ‘Nessun Dorma’ before a virtual performance by Martin Garrix, Bono and The Edge.
Former Italian World Cup winners Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti, who played for Lazio and Roma during their careers at the Stadio Olimpico, carried the ball to midfield before kick-off.
– Berardi impresses –
On the pitch, Italy dominated early on with a three-man attack led by Immobile, playing for Lazio.
The 31-year-old had several near-accidents in the first half and came up against a solid Turkey defense that held up.
Turkey could also thank goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir for pulling a great save in the 23rd minute and knocking Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini’s powerful goal bundle header from an Insigne corner.
Italy finally came on the scoreboard eight minutes after the break when the unfortunate Demiral found himself in the way of a Federico Berardi cross for Immobile, the Juventus defender bundling the ball into his own net.
Leonardo Spinazzola had a chance a second minutes later when Immobile sent a rebound wide.
Immobile finally got his goal, his 14th for Italy, and only in a major tournament in the 66th minute, where he scored from a rebound after Cakir had saved from Spinazzola.
And Insigne curled in the third with 11 minutes left.
Sassuolo winger Berardi had a role in all three goals, with Italy scoring three for the first time in a European Championship match.
All three Italian strikers proved to be effective at night with a defense organized around Juventus veterans Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci holding on and securing a ninth straight clean sheet.
“We struggled at the start, we tried to accelerate, but we hit a wall,” Immobile said.
“In the second half they were a little more tired, they tried to hurry us, but the pitches opened up and we saw our quality at that time.”
Gianluigi Donnarumma was largely carefree in the Italian goal except for a dangerous Burak Yilmaz post after half an hour and a solo run by Cengiz Under after coming off the bench after the break.
“From a tactical point of view, Italy was superior,” Gunes said.
“Italy mastered the pitch and the ball. They strangled us with pressing and high tempo and they took advantage of playing at home.
“We have to respond now.”
Italy, looking for another European title after 1968, will next play Switzerland in Rome on Wednesday, with 2008 semi-finalists Turkey taking on Wales in Baku.