A year later than planned, Euro 2020 is finally here as the tournament kicks off with the Group A opening game at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italy, rebuilt by Roberto Mancini, take on Senol Gunes’s Turkey looking to make amends after failing to qualify for the World Cup three years ago and getting knocked out in the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.
Turkey failed to get out of their group five years ago and were also no-shows in Russia two years later, but will fancy their chances with Wales and Switzerland making up the rest of Group A.
Before kick-off, though, we have the Euros opening ceremony, which will feature Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli singing Nessun Dorma and a virtual performance from Martin Garrix, Bono and The Edge of the official song of the tournament — We Are The People.
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And, right on cue, we’re about to get underway. We start with a countdown back through all the previous Championships, with a look at some iconic moments. Van Basten’s volley – oof.
The teams are going to have to make their way back to the dressing rooms a little earlier than usual because the opening ceremony will be getting underway any minute now, though some of it has been pre-recorded.
The teams are out warming up. I’m excited to see this man, Nicolo Barella, in action tonight. He’s had a cracking season with Inter Milan and has been a key part of Mancini’s Italy re-build.
As for Turkey, well they’re pretty much as expected, with Caglar Soyuncu marshalling what has been a very solid defence and partnered by Juventus’ Merih Demiral, with Ozan Kabak – who Premier League fans will know from his spell at Liverpool – on the bench.
Burak Yilmaz, fresh from firing Lille to the Ligue 1 title, leads the line.
The big call in Roberto Mancini’s team selection tonight was as to who would join Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne in the front-three and he’s gone with Domenico Berardi over Federico Chiesa.
As expected, Marco Veratti is not fit enough to be involved so it’s Manuel Locatelli who gets the nod in there.
Italy team news
Italy XI: Donnarumma, Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola, Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli, Berardi, Immobile, Insigne
Subs: Raspadori, Bastoni, Sirigu, Meret, Di Lorenzo, Belotti, Pessina, Emerson Palmieri, Chiesa, Acerbi, Cristante, Bernardeschi.
Turkey team news
Turkey XI: Cakir, Celik, Demiral, Soyuncu, Meras, Yokuslu, Karaman, Tufan, Yazici, Calhanoglu, Burak Yilmaz
Subs: Gunok, Under, Tokoz, Bayindir, Antalyali, Kabak, Unal, Kokcu, Kahveci, Ayhan, Muldur, Dervisoglu.
I wasn’t a big fan of the multi-nation tournament even before Covid and it certainly isn’t ideal on a logistical front now.
You usually want a hub, fans and teams descending on one nation for a proper football carnival.
But the one good thing, given that capacities are going to be severely restricted at most of the grounds, is that we’re going to get home fans at far more games than we would in a normal tournament and hopefully that’ll get a decent atmosphere going.
Right then, time for a quick pre-Euros checklist.
Wallchart up? (I can’t find any Blu-Tack)
Sweepstake drawn? (I’ve got Poland, Finland and Timo Werner to win the golden boot – cheers)
Shirt purchased? (Scrambled down the shop this morning for mine)
As long as we’re all ready then…