European Championship Kick-Off: Turkey vs Italy Match Preview – The 2020 UEFA European Soccer Championship is finally set to get started at 3:00 p.m. ET Friday with a matchup between two teams along the southern border, Italy and Turkey.
The Euros was forced to be postponed due to the global pandemic last year but is back in full force, much to the excitement of football fans around the world.
Italy and Turkey come into the tournament with different legacies and expectations, though they are set up to have an interesting and tactical battle on the pitch.
Italy Set for a Surprise Climb
The Italians have only won one time but have finished as runners-up as recently as 2012 and will have their eyes set on at least reaching the semifinal with a youthful, technical squad. Italian football is usually associated with a slow, methodical play that revolves around precise passing and dominating possession; yet this side is different.
Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa are a couple of Italy’s young players that could expect extended runs in the side, coming off of excellent campaigns with Juventus. The midfield does not have a particular star but is an industrious and intelligent crew that will likely start a Champions League winner in Jorginho in the middle of the park.
The front line will be led by Ciro Immobile (25 goals and eight assists in 41 games this season) and will be expected to convert chances created by the wingers as well as the fullbacks. Italy has made good use of overlapping runs from the midfield and defense in the games leading up to the Euros and will be a much more exciting team to watch compared to years past.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci could form a familiar partnership, or manager Manuel Pellegrini could opt for new faces like Giovanni Di Lorenzo or Alessandro Bastoni. Alessandro Florenzi at right back could be a player to watch due to his dynamism and ability to charge up and down the right flank, providing service to the attackers and managing to get back to defend.
An important piece for Italy will be Marco Veratti, who is regarded as one of the most technically sound midfielders in the world. Despite his diminutive size, Veratti has a large presence in the midfield and can thread passes through the tightest of windows. If Italy wants to play on the counter-attack and attack in waves from the midfield, he may end up playing at different times than Jorginho, as neither man is a threat to win a foot race. Still, Veratti’s playmaking ability will be a threat to opponents every time he is on the field.
Gianluigi Donnarumma will be between the sticks, boasting 26 career international appearances at just 22-years-old. Donnarumma may be on the move from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain but is still regarded as one of the world’s best goalkeepers despite his age; he has a large frame at 6-foot-5 and is excellent at distributing the ball, a quality that has become vitally important in the modern game.
Turkey a Tough Out
Turkey will play much more towards its physical advantages in size and strength, starting with center forward Burak Yilmaz. The 35-year-old veteran won the French league title with LOSC Lille and captured 16 goals and five assists in 28 games this season. Yilmaz is also Turkey’s second-leading goal-scorer all-time and will be looking to add to his reputation on the international stage.
Hakan Calhanoglu and Yilmaz’s club teammate Yusuf Yazici will be the secondary threats on goal, Calhanoglu from the left channel and Yazici playing off the shoulder of the out-and-out Yilmaz.
Calhanoglu provided an assist once every 3.3 appearances for AC Milan in the Italian league this season and has a lethal combination of quick feet and trickery that allows him to bail himself out of trouble with great regularity. He can run at defenders and is the most creative player on Turkey’s roster, and will be paramount to his side’s success.
Yazici does not have the same stats as Yilmaz as far as goal contributions but is just as important with his late runs behind the defense and his ability to operate as a poacher in the box. Yazici also has chemistry with Yilmaz, an invaluable commodity that is rare amongst players at the national level.
Leicester City’s Caglar Soyoncu is Turkey’s rock at the back and will be partnered by the younger Merih Demiral. While Demiral is not the first-choice center back for his parent club Juventus, Soyoncu is used to competing against the best talent in the world in the Premier League and is one of the better defenders in this tournament.
Italy is the clear favorite heading into kick-off, but between the nerves that come with international play and being the first game in the tournament, an upset is well within the realm of possibility.
Turkey and Italy will be the only teams to play Friday, but there will be three matchups on Saturday. The match’s point-scorers will go to the top of Group A while Switzerland and Wales will be ready to go on Saturday at noon.