• Tom Abadie


Updated: Aug 24, 2021

In the opener of Euro 2020, Rome’s Olympic Stadium welcomed Turkey to face Italy.

While it was a bit of a slow start, the locals eventually come out victors 3-0 after a convincing second half. The Turks, however, were very disappointing and never truly put Donnaruma under pressure. Let’s look at how Mancini managed to get his team into a perfect shape to go away with the opening victory of the tournament.

Italian tactical astuteness

Setting up with a hard-working midfield of Locatelli, Jorginho and Barella, Italy overrun the Turkish’ midfield. With the single Okay Yokuslu to protect the defence, it was fairly simple for Italians go past the first line of press and end up in numerical superiority within the Turkish half of the pitch. While Barella and Locatelli were fairly quite offensively for most of the game, something that we wouldn’t have seen at club level, the attacking threat of the inverted wingers that are Insigne and Berrardi meant Italy probably wanted to avoid a cluster of players in the final third.

Now everything was not perfect. As mentioned above, Italy wanted to avoid the cluster of players but with inverted wingers and a fairly quiet Florenzi on the right, it meant the locals were very narrow and struggled in the first half to get around the Turkish block. Although in transition, it was easy to beat the Turkish press, the visitors block of players when Italy played around the ball in the final third was very dense and Italy struggled to create chances.

However, with Spinazzola taking more of an attacking role in the second half and Di Lorenzo coming in at right back, there was far more width. Turkey started spreading, the block being less compact when trying to stop the full backs from bombing forward, and it eventually gave more space for the wingers to run into. That is exactly how the first goal came: Berrardi came running at pace on his favourite left foot, with the defender expecting him to cut inside to cross or shoot, but he carried the ball outside into space before smashing the ball into the box on his right boot. In a tentative of clearance, Demiral blocked the shot straight into his own net.

The next goal came again from Berrardi. His cross to the second post to Spinazzola led to the left back shooting, pushing Cakir to a great save, only for Immobile to slot it home. Acres of space to run into for all the Italian players, which led to a brilliant team goal to make it 3-0. Intricate passing eventually fell to Insigne, who slotted home the final goal of the game, concluding a brilliant Italian performance. Italy has become an attacking team, and for those who hadn’t watched them under Mancini, this was a great display of his new tactics. The brilliant performance sparked the debate of whether Italy was even a dark horse or a strong outsider for the final win, a question hard to answer but definitely helped by the great performance, unlike Turkey’s performance.

Disappointing Turks

As mentioned above, their midfield was overrun. The line of four attacking players didn’t press hard enough and were left behind every time Jorginho played a driven ball into Turkish territory. While it is sometimes hard to expect attacking players to defend a lot, with the single defensive midfielder, it was certainly expected a little more from them.

It was probably expected for them to do a little more attacking wise. Most of the first half, when they still had a bit of the ball, the defence would just kick the ball upfield, hoping for their captain Yilmaz to chest the ball down and help the block move up. Unfortunately, with Cakir’s very poor kicking and a good marking of Yilmaz from Chiellini notably, it was hard to find the Turkish striker.

The wingers and the full backs brought no width, and the stress of the first game of the competition just meant they completely lost their concentration. Their qualities didn’t show and they certainly disappointed a fair few followers who imagined Turkey are dark horses of this competition. However, it is only the first game, and with Switzerland and Wales both being weaker on paper than the Turkish, they should still make it out of the group. But they certainly have to wake up very soon to keep their hopes of qualifying.