In Rome, in a Stadio Olimpico reopened to the public for the first time in more than a year, the coronavirus pandemic requires, the resurgent Italy of Roberto Mancini launches the Euro football on Friday against the tricky Turkey of Senol Günes.
“We have been waiting for a year to start this adventure, we have to fight to bring Italy back to where it deserves to be”, pawed Leonardo Bonucci who, like all his Azzurri partners, is eager to return to a major international tournament. , three years after the missed meeting at the World Cup.
Faced with a Turkey always difficult to play 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.
After missing the World Cup in 2018, a first for 60 years, Italy has regained play and confidence, under the orders of Roberto Mancini. Qualifications without false note for the Euro (ten victories in ten matches) then for the next Final 4 of the Nations League (in October) chased away the ghosts.
But if it remains on an impressive series of 27 games without defeat, the Nazionale has met few tenors. And this enthusiastic and offensive team 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 must 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, who will participate in the opening ceremony of the Olimpico alongside Francesco Totti, the legend of Roma, notably retains in la Gazzetta dello Sport “a beautiful mix of youth and experience” in Mancini’s squad.
– “Fear of no one” –
On the experience side: the stainless Bonucci-Chiellini central hinge (more than 200 selections both). On the youth side: the fervor of the rising star Nicolo Barella, the legs of Federico Chiesa but also the importance in the cage of the already experienced Gianluigi Donnarumma, who will have to forget a bit about the discussions about his future at the 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 right knee injury in early May with Paris SG. Manuel Locatelli should replace him in the midfield, alongside the precious Jorginho, recent winner of the Champions League with Chelsea.
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 the world champion 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 take to the track on Saturday in Baku, more than 3,000 kilometers from Rome, in this unique itinerant Euro (eleven host cities in eleven countries).
Friday, in Rome: Turkey-Italy (9:00 p.m. PST)
Saturday, in Baku: Wales-Switzerland (3 p.m.)
June 16, Baku: Turkey-Wales (6 p.m.)
June 16, in Rome: Italy-Switzerland, (9:00 p.m.)
June 20, in Rome: Italy-Wales (6 p.m.)
June 20, Baku: Switzerland-Turkey (6 p.m.)
© 2021 AFP