ROME (REUTERS) – Italy kicked off the European Championship with a convincing 3-0 victory over Turkey in Group A at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Friday (June 11) with Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne on target.
Roberto Mancini’s side had been frustrated by Turkey’s defensive approach in the first half but broke through in the 53rd minute when a hard-hit cross from Domenico Berardi flew in off defender Merih Demiral for an own goal.
The Azzurri, now unbeaten in 28 matches, doubled their lead in the 66th when Leonardo Spinazzola’s drive was parried by goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir but Immobile reacted well to slot home the loose ball.
Insigne made it 3-0 in the 79th minute with a confident, curling finish after some sloppy defending from the disappointing Turks, who lost their fifth consecutive opening match of a European Championship campaign.
Italy’s third goal made history as it marked the first time they had scored three goals in a match at the Euros in their 39th attempt.
“It was important to start well here in Rome and it is a joy for us and for all the Italians,” Mancini told Rai.
“It was a great evening, I hope there will be many more, but there are still six to go before Wembley”.
Switzerland and Wales face each in the group’s second game in Baku on Saturday.
After a build-up featuring a spine-tingling performance from opera singer Andrea Bocelli, a spectacular fireworks display and a typically raucous rendition of Italy’s national anthem, the 16,000-strong crowd was in fine voice by kick-off.
Italy were determined to make a strong start five years on from their last major tournament appearance, having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and they started strongly.
The visitors were happy to sit deep and invite pressure and rarely ventured into the Italian half throughout the opening period, but Mancini’s side were left frustrated in their efforts to break through the wall of red shirts.
Giorgio Chiellini had a header tipped over with a spectacular one-handed save by Cakir and Immobile nodded a cross wide as the hosts stretched the Turkish defence.
Insigne curled a shot straight at Cakir from the edge of the box and Immobile fired into the keeper’s arms as Italy headed in at the break with 14 attempts to none from Turkey.
Italy’s patience was rewarded when Berardi fired a cross into the six-yard box where Demiral chested the ball into the net – the first time in European Championship history that the tournament’s opening goal was an own goal.
Spinazzola had a shot beaten away and Manuel Locatelli’s low effort was palmed wide before Immobile doubled Italy’s lead by pouncing on Cakir’s parry from another Spinazzola effort to knock in the rebound.
The Azzurri’s dominance was rewarded again when Immobile threaded a pass to Insigne, who placed a precise finish into the bottom corner with 11 minutes remaining.
Mancini told his players in the pre-match press conference that they should enjoy themselves and seek to entertain, and that was exactly what they did for a jubilant home crowd.
On June 16, Italy face Switzerland in Rome and Turkey take on Wales in Baku in the second round of Group A games.