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In Rome, in a Stadio Olimpico reopened to the public for the first time in more than a year, the resurgent Italy of Roberto Mancini launches the Euro football on Friday against the tricky Turkey of Senol Günes.
Three years after missing the 2018 World Cup, Italy wants to “remake” on the occasion of Euro football that it inaugurates, Friday, June 11, at home in Rome against Turkey, assured Thursday the captain of Azzurri Giorgio Chiellini.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini admitted that he would have preferred a full stadium to support the Azzurri, but “after getting used to no one around, having 16,000 spectators (or around 25% of the capacity) is already a first step “.
“The first match is always the most difficult, you have to be mentally free (…). If we do things as we know how to do them, with peace of mind, we will get there,” added the one who, for three years, rebuilt the Nazionale after taking it to its lowest point, absent from the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
A test match
Faced with a Turkey always difficult to handle and rarely as dangerous as during major meetings, Italy will quickly know if it can have its say, alongside the big favorites of the Euro.
With Mancini, she found the game and confidence, thanks to qualifications without false note for the Euro (ten victories in ten matches) then for the next Final 4 of the League of Nations (in October).
“We managed to transform disappointment into enthusiasm and a desire to do well,” captain Giorgio Chiellini said Thursday, assuring that Italy had “an immense” desire to “recover”.
But if it remains on an impressive 27-game unbeaten streak, Italy has encountered few big names and still remains a promise to be confirmed. “It’s a real group, they know that no one is a star who can, alone, get others out of trouble: to get there, they have to do it together,” said ex-international Alessandro Del Piero on Thursday in the Corriere della Sera.
Alessandro Nesta is no less optimistic about the Italian chances: the ex-player of Lazio Rome, star of the opening ceremony alongside Francesco Totti, the legend of Roma, notably retains in the Gazzetta dello Sport ” a beautiful mix of youth and experience “.
On the experience side: the stainless Bonucci-Chiellini central hinge (over 200 selections between them). Youth side: the ardor of the rising star Nicolo Barella, the legs of Federico Chiesa but also the importance in the cage of the already broken Gianluigi Donnarumma, who will however have to forget a little the discussions on his future in club.
Marco Verratti, Mancini’s centerpiece, is set to miss this inaugural match, as the Paris SG midfielder has just resumed group training after his knee injury in early May with Paris SG. Manuel Locatelli should replace him, alongside the precious Jorginho, recent winner of the Champions League with Chelsea.
Turkey in the position of outsider
On the Turkish side, Senol Günes, the coach who took the country to the World Cup podium (3rd) in 2002, will count in particular on the great form of veteran Burak Yilmaz, 35, champion of France with Lille.
But Donnarumma will also keep a close eye on his AC Milan partner Hakan Calhanoglu and another Lille resident, Yusuf Yazici, who came to give him three goals at San Siro (3-0) in November in the Europa League.
If Turkey is in theory the weakest nation in Group A (29th in the Fifa rankings, behind Italy, Switzerland and Wales), it is a real outsider. With its iron defense (3 goals conceded in qualifying), it had notably made France bend. “We are not afraid of anyone on the pitch. We want to start the competition in the best possible way,” Yilmaz promises.
Welsh and Swiss will start on Saturday in Baku, more than 3,000 kilometers from Rome, in this unique itinerant Euro.