It’s finally here. After a 12-month wait, we are now just hours away from Dutch referee Danny Makkelie blowing the whistle in Rome that signals the start of Euro 2020 as Turkey face Italy live on BBC One.
With home advantage in all three of their group games, Italy are short-priced favourites to win both the group and their respective matches. They have been well supported in their Group A and tournament opener too, backed into 8/15 for the first three points. The draw is 11/4 and Turkey are available at 7/1.
Plenty of pundits see Turkey as their dark horse for this competition on the back of a good run of results. They included wins over the Netherlands and France, and a draw with Germany, but they have also been subjected to two defeats to Hungary and a 3-3 draw with Latvia, evidencing a lack of consistency. They have been entertaining, scoring 10 goals in their three World Cup qualifiers, but have only kept one clean sheet in their last nine and have shipped at least two goals on seven of those occasions.
They are meeting a well-drilled and fast-improving Italian side who come into these championships on the back of a 27-game unbeaten run stretching back to September 2018. Roberto Mancini has transformed their fortunes after missing the 2018 World Cup and instilled a mean defence. It is marshalled by stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, with a combined age of 70 and sharing 207 caps.
Marco Verratti will be a big miss in the middle of the park, with Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli expected to deputise alongside Champions League winner Jorginho. The Chelsea man looks like he will be on penalties for this tournament and is always worth a second look anytime in the match. He is 4/1 to score in the opener.
Turkey will be looking for their 35-year-old star striker Burak Yilmaz to perform on the back of a Ligue 1 title-winning season with Lille in which he netted 16 times in 28 games, and he is 7/1 to score first and 10/3 to score at any time.
Favourite in that market is Lazio’s Ciro Immobile at 10/3 after a brilliant scoring season which saw him net 28 times for club and country.
I expect it may be a cagey affair for the first game of a tournament, with an organised Italian unit able to contain and prove too much offensively, especially if Turkey take an attacking approach. I also see Mancini’s men frustrating their opposition and maybe some punting value could be found in the card’s markets.
Arbiter Danny Makkelie is not renowned for pulling out the cards in the Eredivisie, but his record when taking charge of Europe’s elite this season is a little different. He dished out on average over five yellow cards in his eight Champions League games, and exactly five plus a red in his only World Cup qualifier. The 11/10 available of over 45 booking points (10 for a yellow, 25 for a red) looks more than fair.