Euro 2020 kicks off, 364 days after it was originally scheduled to, with Italy welcoming Turkey to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Roberto Mancini’s Italian side qualified for the tournament without dropping a single point, scoring 30 goals and conceding just four times. They are unbeaten since a Nations League loss to Portugal almost three years ago, and have each won their last five competitive games by two goals to nil.
Not to be outdone, their opponents conceded only three goals in their qualification group – taking four points from World Champions France in the process. They also impressed in their recent World Cup Qualifying matches, with the highlight a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands.
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The Crescent-Stars absorbed everything the Dutch could throw at them and struck on the counter-attack, a method which may prove fruitful against the Italians’ possession-based approach.
Led once again by Senol Gomes, who oversaw a shock 3rd place finish at the 2002 World Cup, the Turks will be tactically astute and not afraid to put themselves about – especially against a somewhat undersized Italy side.
Gone are the days of target men winning aerial duels for the Azzurri, and in their place are a legion of skilled and diminutive attackers. All seven of Mancini’s named forwards are under 6’1, with lightweight Lorenzo Insigne clocking in at just 5’4.
At the other end of the pitch, Turkey’s Burak Yilmaz is coming off (potentially) the best season of his career. His 21 goal involvements in 28 games fired Lille to the summit of Ligue 1, while his hat-trick against the Netherlands ignited hope for his national side to reach next year’s World Cup.
Man in the Middle
The official tasked with setting the precedent for the rest of the tournament is Dutch referee Danny Makkelie. His rather modest tally of 3.58 yellows per game doesn’t seem too appealing on the face of it, but without his Eredivisie games (a timid league for cards) it shoots up to 4.45 per match.
On the biggest stage, he gave 43 bookings and five penalties in eight Champions League outings, and actually sent off Turkey’s Merih Demiral in a group stage game.
Turkey v Italy Tips
Makkelie’s willingness to reach into his pocket during elite competition is probably bad news for West Brom’s Okay Yokuslu. The Turkish central midfielder kept himself somewhat composed during the Premier League season, but has no such reservation for his National side.
He managed to evade any punishment during his country’s aforementioned World Cup qualifiers in March, despite committing nine fouls across three starts. He still picked up four bookings in 15 starts for the Baggies, and 13/8 is probably a fair price for another here.
When Burak Yilmaz starts, Burak Yilmaz shoots. The veteran has had a shot in every game he’s started, domestically and internationally, since August 2020.
He’s also managed 2+ in 22 of those 27 games, and odds of 4/6 for him to do the same here definitely appeal. The King will shoot on site if given the opportunity, and combining that with Both Teams to Concede A Card makes a delightful 23/20 double.