In a way, it seems appropriate that Italy, the first country in Europe to be crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, host the opening game of the European Championship. Even if Euro 2020 starts in 2021.
The largest crowd gathered in Italy for a year and a half will witness an Azuri team aiming to play the title of a Turkish team aiming to surprise on Friday at the Olimpico Stadium in Rome.
“We have been waiting for a year for this European Championship and we can’t wait to hear the 15,000 people singing the national anthem,” said Italian veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci. “Football with stadium fans is a different sport.”
After awkwardly failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy won all 10 of its Euro 2020 qualifiers and entered a 27-match unbeaten match.
“We want to continue until the end,” Bonucci said. “Other national teams have more experience, but we can play with anyone. We don’t have (Romelu) Lukaku or Cristiano Ronaldo. Our strength is the team. “
Turkey took four points from France in qualifying, including a 2-0 victory over the World Cup champions and lost just one of their matches to finish second in their group.
“Participating in this tournament and playing in the opening match makes us proud,” said Turkish coach Chenol Gunes. “There are surprises in every opening game and I hope we can have a spring one.”
The match also includes some political nuances, after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi named Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “dictator” in April. Turkey called on the Italian ambassador to protest, and a presidential spokesman asked Draghi to withdraw his words. However, Draghi did not make a public apology or withdrawal.
Draghi is not expected to attend the match, as he will be in the UK on Friday at the G7 meeting. Erdogan is also not expected to attend. Wales and Switzerland, the other two Group A teams, meet in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Saturday.
This year’s tournament is played in 11 cities scattered across the European continent.
HAIR DRYER PROTOCOLS
The Italian government has decided that Stadio Olimpico can be filled with 25% capacity for the four matches it will host.
This amounts to a maximum of 15,948 spectators.
Holders must show one of three documents to enter Stadio Olimpico: or a certificate from the Italian health authorities indicating that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, another document from the Italian health authorities indicating that they have recovered from the coronavirus in within six months or a negative test result issued within 48 hours of starting.
While more than 2,000 opening tickets have been sold in Turkey, not many of these fans are expected to travel to the match.
Fans arriving at the stadium will measure their body temperature using thermal scanners, and anyone with a fever or other symptoms of coronavirus will be placed in a quarantine area.
The protocols seem like a small price to pay Italy after Italy became the epicenter of a pandemic in Europe in early 2020, as cities like Bergamo struggled to keep up with the sick and the dead. There are more than 125,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in the country and more than 4 million infected, including many members of Italy’s team – both players and coaches.
Italy have won their last eight games without conceding a goal and have 20 clean sheets in 32 games since Roberto Mancini took over as coach.
While record-breaking goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has retired from international football after failing to qualify for the World Cup, Italy remains stable and 22-year-old Gianluigi Donarmama is now between the posts. Also, Bonucci and Italian captain Giorgio Chiellini form a strong and experienced pair in the central defense.
One of Turkey’s main strengths is its solidity behind it. It allowed just three goals in qualifying and managed to keep strikers Memphis Depay and Erling Halland without a result in the final qualifiers for the World Cup.
Both sides are also strong in the center forward.
Ciro Immobile won the European Golden Shoe Award when it combined the Serie A record with 36 goals in 2019-20.
Burak Yilmaz is Turkey’s second-best goal scorer of all time, with his 29 goals behind only retired Hakan Şükür (51 goals).
OPERA AND PLANES
Andrea Bocelli will sing Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nesun Dorma” during the opening ceremony of the tournament before the start.
The ceremony will also include a virtual performance of U2 Bono and The Edge stars with DJ Martin Garrix.