Turkey vs. Italy Best Bets & Score Prediction
Last Time Out:
Turkey defeated Moldova 2-0; Italy thrashed the Czech Republic 4-0.
The sides drew 1-1 on November 15, 2006, in Bergamo, Italy.
About the Matchup:
After a year's wait because of COVID, the Euros finally get underway with the opening match and a chance for Italy to regain some lost glory. The Azzuri have looked lost ever since winning the World Cup in 2006, as they've failed to get past the quarterfinals in five of the past six major tournaments and didn't even qualify for the most recent World Cup. However, Italy has been on an upward trend as of late, as it swept through qualifying for this tournament with ten wins in ten matches, joining Belgium as the only teams to complete a perfect run.
Turkey wasn't perfect in its qualification group, but thanks to a rather weak group of qualifiers, the Crescent Stars didn't need to be. Getting a win and draw off France and pounding Albania, Andorra, and Moldova (Turkey won six matches against the latter three nations by a combined 14-0) was more than enough to see the Turks safely through ahead of Iceland.
Over the past two decades, Turkey has been the definition of a big-stage team. The Crescent Stars have qualified for just three of the past nine major tournaments, but they made the most of two of those chances, finishing in third place at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008. They've got something to prove here after last time out, however: Turkey didn't score a goal in either of its first two matches at Euro 2016.
The defense offers a wealth of experience for Turkey, given that seven of the Crescent Stars' options ply their trade for sides in England, France, or Italy. But if Turkey wants to do more than frustrate its opponents at the back, Burak Yilmaz has to make this his tournament. The 35-year old Turkish captain was rock-solid for Lille in the French Ligue 1 this year, scoring 16 goals and helping his side win its first French championship since 2011. He came up big the last time Turkey met one of the big nations, scoring a hat trick to earn a 4-2 win over the Netherlands in a qualifier for the 2022 World Cup.
But the two goals conceded underly a huge problem with Turkey: you never know what you're going to get with this defense. Usually, Turkey is solid at the back, but the Crescent Stars have been prone to the occasional head-scratching disaster on defense. None was bigger than in their third World Cup qualifier against Latvia, in which Turkey somehow blew a two-goal lead and ended up with a 3-3 draw against a side that managed only three goals in the entire Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. With Turkey, there's a very high ceiling but a very low floor as well.
On the one hand, it's hard to argue with zeros. Italy's defense has been rock-solid at the back for the past eight months now, as the Azzurri haven't given up a goal since Donny van Beek's strike for the Netherlands on Oct. 14, 2020, a streak that spans 785 minutes without conceding a goal. Italy has won its past eight matches to nil, has outscored its last 12 opponents by a combined 33-1, and rides a 27-match unbeaten streak into this matchup.
On the other hand, it's not like Italy has really tested itself since that October meeting with the Dutch. Out of the Azzurri's past eight opponents, only Poland and the Czech Republic managed to qualify for Euro 2020, and while a 4-0 win is a nice statement, it doesn't mean nearly as much when it's coming against the likes of Estonia and San Marino.
The good news for the Italians is that this is a side that should be fairly fresh and unencumbered by the country's recent failures on the world stage. Ciro Immobile is on the wrong side of 30, but he did score 20 goals for Lazio in Serie A this year and has been a major contributor for the Azzurri's offense in 2021. So too has Domenico Berardi, whose 17 goals helped Sassuolo finish in the top half of the Italian league.
Dan's Score Prediction:
In Italy's past five non-friendly matches, the scoreline has ended up the same each time. Turkey's a stronger opponent than Lithuania, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland, or Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it's not quite as good as Poland, and the Poles couldn't break through the Italian wall even with Robert Lewandowski leading their charge.
After the failures of the past decade on the world stage, Italy can't afford anything less than a strong start in front of its home fans. I think Turkey does enough to keep the match closer than Italy would like, but not enough to spoil the opener for the Azzurri. I'll take Italy to claim a 2-0 win at +575.