We have been made to wait a year but Euro 2020 finally gets underway on Friday evening when the eyes of the continent will be on Rome as Italy host Turkey to get what should be a brilliant month of football started.
In the days leading up to the tournament starting there has been a fair amount of support for Italy in the outright markets, while Turkey have been dark horses for a number of judges for a while so we should be in for a decent opener.
Where to watch
If you are based in the UK then it is the BBC who have this opening game. The build up and the match will all be live on BBC1 with the programme beginning at 7pm ahead of the kick off at 8pm.
Having missed out on tournaments recently it will be interesting to see quite what Turkey have to offer here. There is certainly plenty of optimism in them offering up a better display than the odds are giving them credit for and results like their World Cup qualifying 4-2 win against the Netherlands and a 3-2 Nations League win against Russia suggests there is firepower there, dispelling the myth that it is completely Burak Yilmaz or bust for the Turks.
The flip side of that is the 3-3 draw against Latvia in their latest World Cup qualifier highlights a defensive fragility which could make them good to watch but not necessarily guaranteed to win a lot of matches. They don’t lack for defensive personnel though with Caglar Soyuncu and Merih Demiral both applying themselves at a very high club level. Turkey have to decide whether to look to contain here or go out and look to stamp a mark on the game and not get caught between the two. Hopefully for us neutrals they go with the latter approach.
Often we see that there is plenty of pressure on a home nation in a tournament but that might not be the disadvantage it sometimes can be here when there are 11 host teams in the competition. That should suit Italy but the reduced crowd that is in the Stadio Olimpico will still be expecting to see their side begin the competition strongly. Their recent form suggests they will be confident of doing that but tournament football can often bring about strange things.
If we look at recent competitive matches then Italy look a more free scoring side at the minute but still a pretty tight side at the back. They have scored six goals in their opening three World Cup qualifiers and surely the passion of playing in front of the home crowd again will inspire them to continue in that vein here. Italy might be tested more than expected at the back here but they are no strangers to snuffing sides out.
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Turkey go into this tournament without the injured Cenk Tosun in their squad so all eyes will be on Burak Yilmaz for them both in this opening game and the entire event. Cenzig Under, who spent most of the season on loan at Leicester, will be hoping to start.
Italy have one or two issues player wise going into this opening match with Marco Verratti not yet recovered from a knee issue while Lorenzo Pellegrini picked up an injury in training on Wednesday. Roberto Mancini has to decide between Domenico Berardi and Federico Chiesa in the wider area.
When you consider that Italy have won all of their last eight matches and haven’t conceded in any of them you could be forgiven for expecting a pretty one-sided Azzurri victory in this match but historically there have been a lot of draws in the opening match of this particular tournament. Indeed five of the last eight openers have ended 1-1 and we weren’t too far out from the 2016 version ending the same way before Dimitri Payet broke the hearts of Romania in the last minute.
I sense there is more in that than the recent Italy record, which I’m not dismissing for one minute, but at the same time you have to take into account that the opposition included Estonia, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland, Lithuania and San Marino. I think there is a genuine argument to be made that Turkey are better than all of them and they are a side who score goals under this boss. They have some talented youngsters and against an Italy defence that is getting no youngster there may well be some joy for them here. That makes me think the 29/20 on both teams to score is the way to attack this opening contest.
Back Both teams to score for a 3/10 stake at 2.45 with Coral