Turkey vs Italy | Friday 11th June 2020, 20:00 | BBC
The phrases ‘highly-anticipated' and ‘long-awaited' are probably overused – but surely if ever there was the right time to say either, or both, it is now. Following a 12-month delay and the most testing year in most of our lifetimes Euro 2020 is upon us and kicks-off this Friday evening at 20:00 UK time!
Turkey have been put forward as tournament dark horses so often, by so many judges of various standing, that they must surely now be at least chestnut or bay – but you can certainly see why the 74/1 shots (SBK) are catching the eye of both expert and punter alike at a still very attractive price.
Şenol Güneş is operating with the youngest squad in the competition with an average age of just over 24, however optimism is being fuelled ironically in part by 35-year-old veteran striker Burak Yilmaz spearheading the attack.
Yilmaz helped fire Lille to an unlikely French title win by plundering 16 Ligue 1 goals in his debut season for the club, scoring 11 in the final 11 games after returning from injury in March and will be joined in the National squad by club teammate Zeki Celik.
With Serie A stars Hakan Calhanoglu of AC Milan and Juventus’ Merih Demiral along with EPL centre backs Ozan Kabak and FA Cup winner Caglar Soyuncu the Turks certainly aren’t short of big game players.
Güneş has been having his side operate in a defensively strong and counter-attacking 4-2-3-1, which can sometimes switch to a narrow 4-4-2; however, against the Italians in their own stadium, he might also opt for a 3-4-3, tightening up defensively to avoid stretching the game and being exploited.
The home side – a phrase you will hear unusually often over the coming weeks – have somewhat flown under the radar in to this tournament, boasting an enviable and incredible unbeaten record of 27 games, last tasting defeat way back in September 2018 as an Andre Silva strike in Estádio da Luz, Lisbon gave Portugal a 1-0 Nations League victory – navigating the group stages unbeaten will equal the Azzurri’s current unbeaten record set way back in 1939.
However, that streak doesn’t tell the full story with Roberto Mancini’s team only taking on just two sides in the top 20 of the FIFA World Rankings – and he is expecting a tough challenge in this opener by saying “This group is quite hard. You’re unlikely to find weak teams in a competition like this. They are all difficult games. Every team is well prepared tactically, technically and physically. It will be a difficult group. Turkey are a strong team because their players are good technically and physically strong.”
Despite this game being in the Stadio Olimpico, Rome there is a fair chance it will be a tense, nervy occasion for both sides – it is the curtain raiser after all and neither side will want to start this campaign with a defeat.
Being one of the many who put forward Turkey – in the WLB Euro 2020 preview magazine – to go deep in the tournament, I based my call on their resilient defence, one which only conceded three goals in qualifying meaning they ran France close, falling short by two points whilst winning at home and drawing away to the World champions.
In a game I have pegged for a draw but can see a winner by a one goal margin either way, I really like the look of Turkey +1 on the Asian Handicap at even money (1/1) with Bet365 – meaning a draw or Turkey win gets our tournament off to a winning start but an Italy win by a single goal still returns us our stake, only a convincing home win by two or more goals leaves us empty handed.
Turkey vs Italy – Turkey +1 Asian Handicap (1/1 Bet365)