It was hard to think of a way to overcome the vertiginous gravity of Andrea Bocelli playing No Dorma on a balmy Rome evening.
The organizers of Euro 2020 clearly felt that it was best not to try not to participate, so they sent the match ball for Italy’s 3-0 victory over Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico pitch. via a remote control car.
The small crowd of 16,000 applauded the presence of UEFA’s questionable prop – the kind of thing a “fun” uncle might stick under the tree at Christmas – but then they enjoyed it all. After a 12-month delay and unimaginable heartache around the world, Euro 2020 was here.
Especially during those dark first months of the coronavirus pandemic when the sport stopped, we all found solace in nostalgia and reruns of great actions from the past. The 25th anniversary of Euro 96 resonates especially loudly in England as Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions prepare to start their campaign against Croatia on Sunday.
In Italy, and also in the romantic vision of Italian football around the world, Italia 90 still frames an era. Yes, they reached the 1994 World Cup final and won their fourth world title in 2006, but for fans of a certain generation, the Azzurri are indelibly linked to this World Cup which is fondly remembered. home.
Italy won all five of their games at the Stadio Olimpico in the 1990 World Cup before suffering semi-final grief against Argentina at Diego Maradona’s playing field at Stadio San Paolo in Naples.
It was the start of a period when the Italian game reigned supreme. The great Milanese team of Arrigo Sacchi was in its splendor and the cream of the world talents made for the glamor and the richness of Serie A.
It is safe to say that Roberto Mancini inherited a quite different situation in 2018. Italy had failed to qualify for Russia 2018. Far from ruling the world, it was simply the end of the world for one. proud football nation.
At the former boss of Inter and Manchester City, however, they have fallen on the ideal figure to lead a story of redemption. A lavishly gifted striker during his playing days at Sampdoria and Lazio, Mancini’s international career has been marked by frustration and fallout. He spent most of Italia 90 as an unused substitute, having had the misfortune to share an era with masterful Roberto Baggio.
While such echoes of the past will always resonate when Italy plays on the biggest stages, Mancini has propelled a squad injected with youthful exuberance into the modern era, playing high-tempo, high-pressure football – all smoothly. and in angles in possession.
They must have looked for the most acute pockets during a first half of one-way traffic against a crowded defense. Turkey, qualified by many black horses before the tournament, presented itself at the gates of the stable.
At the break he got stuck, despite Italy having scored 14 zero shots for their opponents. Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz, the talismanic hero of Lille’s Ligue 1 success, was reduced to seven touches in the first 45 minutes and a comedic plunge that brought something akin to a look of pity from Giorgio Chiellini.
Great central defenders of previous Italian vintages have been the cornerstone, but Mancini’s Azzurri are built on cute midfielders who cherish the ball. Jorginho (76 of 81 passes completed) was at his best in metronomics as Nicolo Barella (56 assists in Turkey’s half-second only against Jorginho’s 59) and Manuel Locatelli looked for openings.
They combined to establish a relentless supply line to Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne. On either side of striker Ciro Immobile, the two broad strikers chomped at the red wall until it collapsed just before the hour when fatigue gripped the team painfully little ambitious Senol Gunes – perhaps not the last time we’ll see such an approach in a tournament that rewards third in the group stage.
Azzurri the wing
Left-back Umut Meras stumbled when Berardi – whose five chances created were more than any other Italian player – attacked him again in the 53rd.rd minute. Sassuolo’s winger’s uncompromising blow through the mouth of the goal struck Merih Demiral and in. OWNGOLAZO! It seemed almost as silly as a bullet on a remote control car.
Motionless was the intended recipient of Berardi’s work, but the Lazio master poacher wasn’t about to be denied in his home, seizing the rebound from Leonardo Spinazzola’s shot to score in a third appearance in a row in Italy. His first goal in a major tournament was quite out of Salvatore Schillaci’s manual.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a vintage Italian performance without the number 10 coming to the party. Insigne recovered Immobile’s pass after a poor clearance from Turkish goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to find a clean finish and the goal his scintillating efforts deserved.
If a pre-match serenade from Bocelli came through, how about a last resort tackle from an Italian center-back? Naturally, Chiellini found one of those to thwart Yilmaz in stoppage time, reveling in his work and won another clean sheet.
But Mancini’s Azzurri don’t need to dwell on a famous past. It was an authoritative statement from a team for the here and now.