Euro 2020 started with a statement of intent. Well, technically it started with a small car driving a soccer ball onto the field at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, but the statement of intent followed pretty quickly.
Italy’s 3-0 win against Turkey in the tournament’s opening game does not guarantee anything; this is still a young team, a work in progress, one that perhaps lacks the star power of France, England and Portugal, among others. Italy came in to Euro 2020 with momentum, but it was always somewhat fragile: an early setback could easily have undone three years of good work.
Instead, of course, that momentum will have been redoubled by swatting a decent — if somewhat callow — Turkish team aside. And more broadly, it gave the competition as a whole what it needed: an entertaining, attractive opener, one that will hopefully serve to set the tone for the remainder of the group stage.
The structure — in which only eight teams will be eliminated at the first hurdle — incentivizes a safety-first approach; that Italy did not take one will, with any luck, set the tone for everyone else.
“It was important to start well and it’s satisfying for us, for the crowd and for all Italians,” Italy Coach Roberto Mancini said. “It was a wonderful evening and I hope there will be many more.”
Italy has subbed liberally and now just wants to get out with its ankles intact. Two quick yellows for Turkey prove that last bit won’t be easy.
Turkey has some very real goal-difference worries now as it prepares for its next two group games, against Wales and Switzerland. The two group winners and the best four third-place teams will advance to the knockouts, but they’ve dug a big hole for themselves today.
Goal! Insigne! That’ll do it. Italy carved up the Turks on that one after goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir passes the ball directly to an Italian beyond his penalty area.
In a flash, Italy is in, sweeping the ball into the center and then out wide to an open Insigne. He opens his body and buries the shot past Cakir.
It’s the first time Italy has scored three in a game at the Euros. And within a minute Isigne and Immobile, who had the second, are subbed off to rest for the next game. Job well done by both of them.
GOAL! Ciro Immoblie pounces on a rebound to double Italy’s lead. A poacher’s goal from an Italian poacher, and one who has scored a ton of them in this stadium for Lazio.
Is that enough for Italy to lock this down? It might be.
GOAL! Oh that’s tragic for Turkey. Berardi drives into the Turkish penalty area and, taking advantage of a defender’s slip, creates a bit of space and rockets a cross across the front of the goal. It slams into defender Merih Demiral, who could do nothing to get out of the way, and ricochets into the net.
Italy leads, 1-0, and hopefully the game will come to life.
A good stat from our colleague Tariq Panja: The last time an opening game finished 0-0 was played in Italy in 1968. And Italy ended up winning the tournament.
UPDATE: Never mind, Tariq.
Two changes at halftime, one for each team. Giovanni Di Lorenzo replaces Florenzi on Italy’s back line, which might signal a different look for its defense, and Cengiz Under is on for Yazici up front for Turkey.
Another call for a handball against Turkey, and another sweep of the hand from our referee, who waves on play. Celik, the Turkish defender, definitely handled the cutback pass at the end line but not in an unnatural way, apparently.
It doesn’t matter, though. The halftime whistle has gone, and we are scoreless at the break in Rome. Good riddance to that first 45.
A scoreless halftime looms, and with it — hopefully — a tactical change or two that might open this up a bit in the second half. Italy, it must be said, has definitely had the better of the last 15 minutes.
Italy, in quick succession, appeals for a handball against Soyuncu (the Dutch referee says no, correctly); has an open header by Chiellini saved (best chance so far); and then flubs the ensuing corner.
Insigne with the first real chance of the game, but his curling shot from the left was always headed wide of the right post.
Neither Turkey nor Italy seems inclined to gamble early. There has been some teasing on the wings, and Yilmaz just got loose on the right, but crosses have been off-target or easily dealt with at both ends, and both teams have their cover — in midfield and at the back in good order.
Turkey and Italy have announced their lineups for the opening game. Capacity at the Stadio Olimpico is limited to 16,000 fans today, so expect the cheers from the crowd — mixed with fans of both countries — to be more muted than usual.
Turkey: Ugurcan Cakir, Zeki Celik, Merih Demiral, Caglar Soyuncu, Ozan Tufan, Okay Yokuslu, Umut Meras, Yusuf Yazici, Hakan Calhanoglu, Burak Yilmaz, Kenan Karaman
Italy: Gianliugi Donnarumma; Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Spinazzola; Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, Manuel Locatelli; Domenico Berardi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne
Chiellini, 36, is hardly a surprise, but his presence is a link to Italy’s past failure in major tournaments. While veterans like Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi saw a missed World Cup in 2018 as a moment to step aside from the national team, to make way for others, Chiellini said this week that he saw it as a chance to double down.
“We really want to make things right, to make Italy a contender in a big international tournament again,” Chiellini said Thursday. “Because that defeat in Milan with Sweden is something that remains inside us and can never be erased.”
Limited attendances for Euro 2020 will leave most stadiums below capacity, and Friday’s opening match in Rome was the first look at what that will mean. Fans of Italy and Turkey who couldn’t find a way in found vantage points on the Piazza del Popolo to watch Andrea Bocelli sing and the fireworks go off.
France is the current World Cup champion and has a collection of stars led by — but absolutely limited to — striker Kylian Mbappé. So it should come as no surprise that it is the favorite to win Euro 2020.
But the second and third favorites, by only a small margin, are more unexpected: England and Belgium, mostly because they rarely win anything.
England, which hasn’t won a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup but reached the semifinals of the 2018 event in Russia, is the second favorite at 7-1, based on the consensus of odds from bookmakers around the world. That’s not far-off mighty France’s 5-1 odds.
England could be helped, eventually, by playing some of the tourmanent’s biggest matches on home soil: the Euro 2020 semifinals and final all will be played at London’s Wembley Stadium. But England must make it that far to benefit, and given that its potential round of 16 opponent could be Germany or Portugal, followed by Spain in the quarterfinals, its presence at the end is by no means guaranteed.
As for Belgium, which has never won a major title, it currently boasts a golden generation of players who have led it to a surprising No. 1 world ranking, and it finished third at the 2018 World Cup. That has helped make it the third choice of oddsmakers at Euro 2020, at 7½-1.
Just behind are some more expected contenders like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany, all clustered around 9-1.
Who isn’t going to win Euro 2020? Well, if the oddsmakers are to be believed there are three teams with absolutely no hope: Hungary, Slovakia and Finland are all in the neighborhood of 1,000-1.
Even North Macedonia (500-1), at least today, is seen as having a better chance of lifting the trophy.
Here it is, then. A year after it was supposed to start, with stadiums only partly occupied by fans and at least one of the favorites already sweating a potential coronavirus outbreak, Euro 2020 finally gets underway in Rome on Friday.
It has not been an easy road to this day, for either UEFA, the competition’s organizer, or the 24 teams who qualified. Most of the players scheduled to represent their nations are coming off the back of long, compacted seasons, ones that might affect their performance levels over the next month.
There are, meanwhile, still lingering concerns that the coronavirus pandemic, and the travel restrictions in place across Europe to try to slow its spread, might yet force the relocation of at least one game. Spain has had to call up a separate, shadow squad of players after two of its first-choice squad tested positive for the virus.
For all the chaos and all the exhaustion, though, the first game — Italy’s meeting with Turkey — brings with it a notable flickering of excitement, melting away the logistical concerns.
Italy’s players were taken to Rome on Thursday night on a specially-decorated train. The opening ceremony at the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital is supposed to invoke happy memories of the 1990 World Cup, the last major tournament the country hosted. And Belgium and England, two more of the favorites, are slated to play over the weekend. It has been a long wait. The hope, now, is that it was worth it.
Everyone knows Harry Kane. Or at least they think they do. But no one ever struggles with how to say his name.
The same can’t be said for Croatia’s Sime Vrsaljko and Turkey’s Hakan Calhanoglu. So UEFA has published a helpful pronounciation guide for EURO 2020 players ahead the tournament.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Michy Batshuayi thank you for reading.
Kevin De Bruyne, the engine of Belgium’s offense, will not play in his team’s first game against Russia, Coach Roberto Martinez said Friday. De Bruyne is still training alone after having an operation to repair a fractured nose and eye socket sustained while playing for Manchester City in the Champions League final last month.
Martinez said that he expected De Bruyne would rejoin full training after the team returns to its training camp near Brussels after Saturday’s game against Russia in St. Petersburg.
“The next two days will be really important, just to get him back to really being able to move freely and start getting the exercise needed before he can come to the group,” Martinez said.
De Bruyne, recently voted Premier League’s player of the year for the second straight season, had revealed his injuries after City’s lost to Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.
Hi guys just got back from the hospital. My diagnosis is Acute nose bone fracture and left orbital fracture. I feel okay now. Still disappointed about yesterday obviously but we will be back
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) May 30, 2021
De Bruyne arrived at Belgium’s camp on Monday after having a minor operation to repair his injuries. Belgium’s second game is against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday, and Martinez said Friday he was optimistic his star midfielder would be able to take part in it.
Hungary’s nationalist leader, Viktor Orban, has had his say. Britain’s populist prime minister, Boris Johnson, has weighed in, too. Euro 2020’s biggest controversy so far has been about what takes place in the final seconds before matches kick off, rather than what fans can expect when games actually begin.
The debate — about whether players should take a knee in solidarity with social justice movements before games — has only grown sharper since England’s team was jeered by a section of its own fans for taking a knee before two recent exhibition games. The players have vowed to continue to kneel during the European Championship, starting with their opening match against Croatia on Sunday in London. Prime Minister Johnson’s office, after initially saying fans had the right to boo them if they chose to, reversed course late in the week and now says it supports the players’ gesture.
A few days ago, Johnson’s spokesperson said: “On taking the knee, specifically, the prime minister is more focused on action rather than gestures”
Imagine the optics of fans booing players at the upcoming matches was not one No10 wanted to side with.
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) June 11, 2021
Yet on Tuesday in Budapest, which will host games in Euro 2020, Ireland’s national team was greeted with a cascade of jeers when its players took the knee before a tuneup against Hungary. Orban stoked further controversy by accusing the Irish players of “provoking” the home spectators.
“We can’t interpret this gesture in any other way, looking at it from our cultural point of view it’s an incomprehensible thing, a provocation,” Orban said.
The issue will continue to be a flash point during the tournament. Scotland on Friday said its team — which had stopped taking the knee in March — would join England in the gesture when the teams meet next week. “Given the events around the England national team, taking the knee in this tournament matters as a symbol of solidarity,” said Scotland’s captain, Andy Robertson.
Tournament organizers have expressed quiet concern about the reaction players who kneel will receive in locations where racism continues to be a major problem.
Antiracism monitors will be at more than 50 games during the tournament, part of a longstanding program at high-risk fixtures. The monitors will file live reports to UEFA if they hear discriminatory language or see far right banners or insignia in stadiums.
The European Championship, generally considered the biggest soccer tournament after the World Cup, is starting after a year’s delay. Here are some basics on how to watch, and what you might see.
How can I watch?
In the United States, the bulk of the games will be on ESPN, with a few on ABC. When two games are played simultaneously, one will run on ESPN2 instead. Games also will be streamed on ESPN+. Univision holds the Spanish-language rights in the United States.
Broadcasters elsewhere include Bell Media and TVA (Canada), BBC and ITV (Britain), Optus (Australia), M6 and TF1 (France), ARD and ZDF (Germany) and Wowow (Japan). Here’s a complete list.
When are the games?
Italy and Turkey will kick off the tournament on Friday in Rome, and after that there will be multiple games every day for two weeks. Until the third matches in each first-round group, which are played simultaneously, no games will be played at the same time. The 16-team knockout round begins with two matches on June 26. The final is July 11 in London.
(The South American championship, the Copa América, kicks off on Sunday in Brazil, runs concurrently, and concludes on the same day.)
At one point, for reasons that presumably made sense in context, the coach and one of his assistants spent a few minutes onstage playing padel — a Basque version of tennis — with a set of frying pans. At another, three players were lined up in descending order of height and asked to perform as backing vocalists for someone who, apparently, self-identifies as a rapper.
Most of the countries competing in this summer’s European Championship announced their squads in the traditional manner. Italy, though — well, Italy went in a very different direction. It unveiled its players for the tournament during a variety show, broadcast live and late into the night, that did not actually conclude with confirmation of the squad. The federation never quite managed to fit it in, what with all the music and games and cooking equipment. Italy’s list was released on social media a couple of hours later.
The proceedings, though, created just the sort of impression Roberto Mancini — the pan-wielding coach — wanted.
The angst and the anguish of Italy’s dismal performances in major tournaments over the past decade have been thoroughly banished. Instead, as Mancini said while he stood onstage that night, broadcasting live to the nation, his frying pan laid to one side, he is going to try something novel.
“We will get the fans on board,” he said, “by having fun.”
Rory Smith of The Times took a long look at what he and his team have been up to.
In Germany, Toni Kroos missed the start of Germany’s preparations after testing positive for it. In Russia, the health authorities say cases are on the rise in St. Petersburg, which will host seven games, and the national team cut a player on Friday after he tested positive. That result came after Spain and Sweden each had two players test positive only days before their teams were to meet in the group stage.
The coronavirus is stalking Euro 2020 even before a game has been played. The pandemic has already delayed the tournament for a year, and forced officials to expand rosters and reduce the size of crowds in most cities. Yet the virus is still causing havoc.
Spain’s health ministry said this week that it would provide vaccine shots to every player on the country’s national team after two — Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente — tested positive on the eve of the tournament. On Friday, the country’s soccer federation released a video documenting the shots.
📺 Así ha sido el proceso de vacunación de los jugadores de la @SeFutbol en la Ciudad del Fútbol de Las Rozas.
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) June 11, 2021
“While this is great news for us, I hope that we don’t have any adverse effects before the match,” said midfielder Thiago, who was infected with Covid-19 last year.
Spain Coach Luis Enrique, who named only 24 players to his squad, even though the rules permitted 26, said Thursday that he still planned to use both players once they are cleared to play. Llorente has since returned a negative test, raising hopes that his initial positive was wrong, and Busquets will be back after his 10-day quarantine, which has ruled him out of Spain’s opener against Sweden on Monday.
“We are going to wait for him,” Luis Enrique said.
Russia was not as patient. It cut winger Andrey Mostovoy after his positive test and replaced him with defender Roman Evgeniev. Russia’s coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, said testing Thursday night and Friday morning confirmed — at least to him — that no other players were affected.
“Everyone is clean,” he said.