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When Italy and Turkey kick off Group A action at the Stadio Olimpico to officially open Euro 2020 on Friday afternoon, it will be a meeting of old rivals who have clashed several times over the years on big stages, but haven’t renewed acquaintances in a number of years.
Friday’s match will mark the sixth time that the Azzurri and the Crescent-Stars have met at either a World Cup or Euro and the third time the pair has taken the pitch at the Euro. If history is any indicator, it could be a long evening for Senol Gunes’s men on Friday. Turkey has never beaten Italy, neither in competitive matches nor friendlies. In 11 matches, the Azzurri have eight wins and three draws.
Coverage of the match begins LIVE on TSN1, TSN4, and TSN Direct at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT
The most recent match between these two sides at the Euro came in 2000, the year that Italy finished as runners-up, losing to 2-1 to France in extra time in what was an all-time classic final.
Like on Friday, the match in 2000 was each team’s opening contest of that Euro. Then-Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte opened the scoring with a beautiful overhead kick in the 53rd minute after the Turkey backline scrambled a clearance. A little over 10 minutes later, Galatasaray midfielder Okan Buruk headed home an equalizer off of a free kick from Gala teammate Sergen Yalcin.
But the Azzurri would have the last laugh. In the 70th minute, Turkey captain Ogun Temizkanoglu bodied Pippo Inzaghi off the ball in the area for a clear penalty. The Azzurri No. 9 and Juve striker made no mistake, hammering under a diving Rustu Recber to give Italy the 2-1 win.
Italy enters on a roll
As for Friday’s match, Gunes is well aware that his team is coming up against an Azzurri side that hasn’t lost a match since 2018 and hasn’t even conceded a goal in 2021. He’s calling for imperiousness from his charges.
"The result we get in the first match is important; a draw or a win can cause confusion in the group,” Gunes said. “I hope so. I want to see our strength in the first match; even if we lose, it's important to play well. Participating at Euro is a success, but it can't end there."
Azzurri manager Roberto Mancini is effusive in praise of his opponents on Friday and knows that, even as well as his team has played in recent months, there won’t be any layups in this tournament.
"Turkey are a strong team, because their players are good technically and physically strong,” Mancini said. “They have improved a lot. It will be the same playing against [other Group A opponents] Switzerland and Wales. This group is quite hard. You’re unlikely to find weak teams in a competition like this."
POTENTIAL ITALY XI: Donnarumma, Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson, Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli, Chiesa, Insigne, Immobile
POTENTIAL TURKEY XI: Cakir, Celik, Demiral, Soyuncu, Meras, Yokuslu, Under, Tufan, Calhanoglu, Yazici, Yilmaz