Turkey v Italy: Azzurri will be tested in Euro 2020 curtain raiser
Dave Farrar previews the opening Euro 2020 match and feels the odds favour Italy losing that eight-game clean sheet run against Turkey...
Both Euro 2020 curtain-raisers should qualify
One of the leading contenders for Euro 2020 in Italy, against the team that many are tipping as their outsider-in-chief, in Senol Gunes's mercurial Turkey. We have a terrific opening game to look forward to, but the order of fixtures could have been kinder for both sides. They will be eager to get what they need out of this, and then move on to what should be kinder assignments against Switzerland and Wales.
If you like the idea of their unheralded side causing problems for Roberto Mancini's men, then Turkey look huge for this at 9.0, but there is something seductive as well about Italy's form. Eight wins in a row, all without conceding, an experienced backline, and the European Golden Boot of two season ago in Ciro Immobile. There are reasons that they have now been backed into 9.2 to win this most open of tournaments.
I have little doubt that both of these teams will qualify for the Round of 16, and that Italy in particular have a chance of winning, but going from impressive seeming victories in the Nations League, in a qualifying campaign, and in none too taxing friendly matches, into the brimstone of a major tournament, will tell us more about the real character of Roberto Mancini's team.
Don't underestimate the underdogs
The stats tell us that Mancini's side will fit the trope of Azzurris past: pundits will tell us just how solid they are defensively, that experience will make them hard to ruffle, and they will point too to the stats, which back up that case.
I think, though, that there are issues for Italy at centre half in particular, that Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini might enjoy playing against Burak Yilmaz, but will find Turkey's strong running support players a problem, and that Mancini's side could be exposed in the glare of real competition.
There's a lot to like about Turkey, with their weakness a lack of striking options. I mentioned in my tournament preview for Betfair that it seems to be "Burak or bust" for them, but it's those previously mentioned support players who maybe hold the key. Hakan Calhanoglu and Cengiz Under are both supremely talented, Yusuf Yazici a real threat, and if they can get at what I believe to be a potentially leggy back four, Turkey could be in business.
Italy will be a threat themselves, how can they not be, and in Nicolo Barella they may just give us the midfielder of the tournament, but this will be a lot tougher than it looks.
In terms of a bet or two, I think that Turkey look attractive at around the 2.0 mark with a goal start on the Asian Handicap, and I wouldn't be as shocked as the price of 9.0 suggests if Senol Gunes managed to engineer a win in this opening game.
If you like Correct Score betting, then bear in mind that five of the last eight opening games at a Euro have finished 1-1, and that would have been six out of eight but for a late Dmitri Payet goal in 2016. That eventuality is available at 9.2 here, and there are plenty of worse options, although I think that Italy might just edge this, as France did last time, by a 2-1 scoreline.
I don't say that with any confidence, though, as I respect this Turkish side a great deal.
In terms of goalscorers, Ciro Immobile is the obvious place to turn for Italy, but he is short at around even money as any anytime goalscorer. I have huge admiration for Mimmo Berardi, and believe that he might just make a splash at a big tournament. You can back him at around 3.5 to score in this opening game.
For Turkey, if you want to move away from big Burak at a short-ish price, then Yusuf Yazici showed us in the Europa League and for Lille in Ligue 1 that he is capable of making forward runs from deep and punishing static defences. Italy should take note, as he is just the kind of player to cause them issues. He's backable at 9.5 in the To Score market here.
No clean sheet this time
With Turkey likely to be better than the odds suggest, though, and almost certain to ruffle some feathers, I think that effectively supporting them in the "Both Teams to Score" market makes the most sense. Turkey will get chances, and if you ignore their misleading defensive record in Euro Qualifying, their 4-2 win over the Netherlands and the 3-3 draw against Latvia are perhaps more accurate records of where they are as a team.
I've watched pretty much every minute of Italy's last eight matches, and they haven't been tested and taken on since the Netherlands were unlucky not to beat them in Bergamo last October. Turkey WILL take them on, WILL test them, and I believe that they will end that run of eight consecutive clean sheets. Back the idea of an Italian cakewalk at your peril.
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