The European Championship opens Friday afternoon with a Group A fixture between favorite Italy and Turkey in Rome. It will be a matchup between one of the most creative teams in world soccer and one of the most stoic defensive teams in Europe.
Sportsbook Odds Analysis
Italy started as a -205 favorite for the tournament opener. After putting up wins by massive margins in international friendlies in the last fortnight – 7-0 against San Marino and 4-0 against Czech Republic – Italy’s odds have shortened slightly to -200 at the time of writing. Turkey also came through its friendlies largely unscathed, which resulted in its odds shortening significantly since Sportsbook: Turkey to upset Italy has moved from +810 to +700.
Turkey News & Notes
In 240 minutes on the pitch, Turkey conceded just one goal in the international friendlies over the last fortnight. Turkey first beat Azerbaijan 2-1, then had a goalless draw against Guinea before beating Moldova 2-0 in the final friendly. There is no doubt that its only chance in the opener is to maintain that same defensive solidity. Italy is a creative team, capable of finding a magic pass from almost anywhere on the pitch. Staying abreast with that level of skill will be Turkey’s biggest challenge in the opener.
There are no injury concerns for Turkey so far. Cengiz Ünder and Burak Yılmaz will form a potent front two for Turkey. Chances created in the final third will likely be few and far between. However, considering the slight matchup edge physically, dead-ball pieces will be imperative in generating shots on goal.
Defensively, Çağlar Söyüncü will lead Turkey. He had a sensational season at the back for Leicester City in the Premier League. He is also an offensive force from set pieces. Turkey will be desperate to start well defensively because that’s the template for its success, as was evident from Euro 2020 qualifying where it conceded just three goals.
Italy News & Notes
Italy’s only injury concern was the fitness of Stefano Sensi. He has since been replaced by Matteo Pessina for the entirety of the tournament. Pessina made an immediate impact on the national side by scoring a brace in a 7-0 friendly win against San Marino. Marco Verratti was listed as questionable with a knee injury but he might not have been risked in the starting XI anyway.
From a personnel standpoint, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Belloti and Nicolo Barella have all got themselves on the scoresheet in the friendlies that preceded the start of the tournament. Italy’s defensive core will also be pleased with having spent 180 minutes on the pitch without conceding, albeit to teams not at the same level.
Immobile is expected to be the solitary out-and-out striker in the starting XI on Friday, along with Insigne and Domenico Berardi on either flank. Jorginho will be the holding midfielder in the middle of the pitch, while Nicolo Barella will be tasked with feeding deliveries into the final third.
From a matchup perspective, Italy’s challenge will be in competing with Turkey on a physical front, especially from dead-ball situations, as manager Roberto Mancini alluded to: “Turkey are a strong team, because their players are good technically and physically strong.”
Betting Pick 1: Italy -200
The bright lights of a major international tournament will not be new for Italy. It won’t be blinding for Turkey but there is a sense that the underdog status suits Italy nicely in this tournament. This Sportsbook game will not be decided by a margin of more than two goals, so expect every chance created to be impactful, particularly from Italy’s dynamic offensive core. Don’t discount the power of home-ground advantage for Italy either.
Betting Pick 2: Total goals UNDER 2.5 (+101)
Fewer than two goals will not be uncharted territory in this Euro Cup, particularly with teams like Turkey. The statistical evidence is too strong to ignore. That’s also the way Turkey plays its soccer. Odds of around +100 are too compelling to not consider. My prediction is a 1-0 win for Italy to open the tournament.