The day has finally come. The 2020 Euros are here in 2021. Match 1 of 51 kicked off in Rome on Friday as Italy played host to Turkey. Italy come into the tournament in good form, winning all ten of their qualifying matches, and not losing a competitive match since September of 2018. But with an interesting first test against Turkey, another team in good form, many were excited to see if Italy could continue their impressive run of results on the big stage.Embed from Getty Images
The match at Stadio Olimpico was a bit messy to start, as you would expect in a tournament curtain raiser. As the half went on the Italians were able to be more comfortable in possession, with Turkey putting less pressure on the ball. The first real chance of the match came after 17 minutes, after Italy’s patient build up play down the left led to a great chance from Insigne, with his curling effort not having enough spin to find the right side of the net. The left flank was a real point of emphasis for the Italian attack and this was clear from the get go. Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Insigne linked up cleverly and they were given enough time on the ball to work good chances into the Turkish penalty area. Italy continued utilizing their players on the left side of the pitch throughout the first half. This is where Immobile headed wide off of another cross from Spinazzola, and later on another attempted cross into the area hit the outstretched arm of Turkey right-back Zeki Çelik leading to penalty claims from the Italians. After a quick VAR review, nothing was given, likely because Celik was too close to the kicked ball to react quick enough.
When Turkey were able to get the ball they relied on long balls into the channels for veteran striker Burak Yilmaz to chase onto. This is where Turkey looked likeliest to score, but Yilmaz was never able to pose a real threat in the first half, and could not hold onto the ball for long enough so that his teammates could join him. So, after 45 minutes, Italy had nothing to show for.Embed from Getty Images
After a difficult first half, Turkey started the second half very well, with substitute Cengiz Under getting his side’s first shot on goal after a quick counter. Turkey seemed to want more control of the match to begin the second half, with the midfield leaving more space away from the back four. This plan ended up backfiring, as Italy were able to find space in behind the Turkish defence for the first time in the match, when Domenico Berardi’s cross deflected into the goal off Merih Demiral. It was a surprise to see Italy’s first goal come from the right side of the field rather than the left, but it didn’t take too long for Spinazzola and Insigne to get involved in the goals. After some substitutions to shake up the Turkish midfield, Italy kept on the pressure. Spinazzola soon afterward found a shooting opportunity with his effort being parried right into the path of Ciro Immobile, who made no mistake from six yards out. A few minutes later, a sloppy Turkish goal kick was controlled by Berardi and eventually played into Insigne, who released a signature curler with his right foot.Embed from Getty Images
Much has been said about Group A and the role Turkey might play as a potential dark horse in this tournament, but it was Italy who stole all the headlines in the opener with their performance. Their midfield three were able to control the match and their passing was very tidy throughout. Immobile linked up well with the midfield and his wingers, dropping deep when needed but also making quick runs behind Turkey’s defense throughout. His goalscoring will be important for Italy to make a deep run in the tournament, and at the other end, it will be interesting to see how the veteran centre-back pairing of Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci copes when they are put under a bit more pressure. Moving forward Turkey will head to Azerbaijan looking to get Baku on track in Group A (sorry) with a better display against Wales. Meanwhile Italy will go up against Switzerland in hopes of collecting three more points.
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Since taking over from Gennarro Gattuso in May 2021, Luciano Spalletti has turned Napoli into one of Serie A’s most formidable units. While a fifth place finish in the 2020-21 season was a fine result for Gli Azzurri, it wasn’t what they had hoped for, nor what they could have achieved. In came Spalletti and POOF(!) the team are now on an unbeaten run at the start of the 2021-22 season, winning seven from seven. After Inter Milan broke Juventus’ long-standing record last season, the Napoli faithful will now be hoping Serie A might be theirs for the taking this year. Here is a tactical analysis of Luciano Spalletti’s new-look Napoli.
Although we all love the beautiful game, we may watch for different reasons. Some tune in as a family tradition. Others for personal or professional interest. And still others purely for the sake of entertainment. Here, today, I hope to add one more reason to your list if it’s there already: watch to learn. Specifically, to learn how a football club compiles individual contributions of skill, athleticism, intelligence, and desire, and stations those facets of the game for collective success. This is my working definition of football tactics inherent to formations.