Turkey 0-3 Italy – Tactical Analysis

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Euro 2020 has officially kicked off, with Italy smashing Turkey to pieces in the second half of the opening fixture. The match was a fairly dull affair in the first half, with Turkey defending resolutely, and Italy only got going once they abandoned their attempts to have all of the possession. By relinquishing more control over to Turkey, Mancini’s team ultimately gained more control in the final third and were able to unbalance Turkey’s defensive structures to win the match comfortably 3-0. Here is our tactical analysis of the match.

turkey – 4-1-4-1

(GK) Ugurcan Cakir, (RB) Mehmet Zeki Celik, (CB) Merih Demiral, (CB) Caglar Soyuncu, (LB) Umut Meras, (DM) Okay Yokuslu, (RW) Kenan Karaman, (AM) Yusuf Yazici, (AM) Ozan Tufan), (LW) Hakan Calhanoglu, (CF) Burak Yilmaz

out of possession

Turkey spent most of the match defending, and thus their 4-1-4-1 shape never really came to fruition. Instead their shape was much more 5-4-1 or 5-2-3, since Karaman was pushed back so far on Italy’s left to track the movement of Spinazzola that he became a member of the back-line. Tufan and Yokuslu shuffled well to stop Italy’s inverted wingers and Barella from getting on the ball and exploiting central areas, as the Turks continued to either force play wide or long. Yazici meanwhile usually remained higher along with Calhanoglu and Yilmaz, who didn’t need to engage as part of the back-line due to the reserved roles their opposite numbers often played. Yilmaz was however reluctant to track Chiellini’s occasional runs and dribbles forward into the left-half-space, while Calhanoglu looked to mitigate Florenzi’s movement more often as part of the 5-4-1 when Florenzi would operate higher. With all this in mind, Turkey’s defensive shape and resiliency remained fluid as they reacted to the movement of the Italians. Celik for example often played like a right-centre-back in the back-five to track Lorenzo Insigne’s movement, and Merih Demiral would follow Ciro Immobile’s movement in deep during build-up phases.

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Turkey’s defensive shape and structure proved to be very effective throughout the first half. As Italy couldn’t find a way through in central midfield, they often relied on balls from deep from their back three, and these were usually cut off by Turkey’s robust defense. Soyuncu, Celik, Demiral and Yokuslu are all excellent in the air, while Immobile isn’t necessarily quite as strong. This made it easy for Turkey to win the ball, but they couldn’t keep hold of it after doing so. Turkey’s defense was also effective in forcing long shots, to which Italy attempted several more than they likely should have. Italy’s best attempts were from more intricate passing sequences and trying to isolate Spinazzola up against Karaman 1v1. Celik was smart in never allowing Insigne to pull him completely out of position, but Karaman’s defensive skills clearly were not able to match Spinazzola’s attacking ones. Had Italy used this tactic more or even Spinazzola trusted his ability more, the Italians could have broken the deadlock quicker than they did. Other than these left-side attempts, a few solid corner kick routines, and hopeful long shots that were never going to trouble Ugurcan, Italy found it incredibly difficult due to Turkey’s desire to get eight men behind the ball in the first half.

In the second half, Italy had a bit of an easier time, as Turkey’s resilient structure became suddenly undone by an increased emphasis on the right side and a bit more attacking urgency. Turkey also spent less time defending and more time in possession in the second half, which in turn allowed Italy to actually gain a greater foothold over the match.

in possession

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In possession, Turkey never really got a foothold in the match. Upon winning the ball they often gave it immediately back to Italy, either through hopeful long passes that never came off, or through Italy’s central midfielders easily winning the ball back and restarting play. Turkey’s goalkeeper in particular was woeful in possession, often just smashing the ball as hard and as high as he could when it came to him. The other members of Turkey’s back-line tried to be more patient and keep possession, and were often disappointed after going back to their goalkeeper to find the ball end up out of bounds seconds later.

Turkey’s most common shape in their build-up resembled something similar to a 2-1-4-3. Yokuslu operated ahead of the two centre-backs, with the fullbacks pushing up into the midfield line, and the two wingers tucking inside ahead of that four man midfield. This could have allowed for potential rotation between the inverted wingers and central midfielders to move around the pitch and disrupt Italy’s defense, but the Turks could never keep the ball long enough to properly accomplish this. Instead, they had their most success when attacking quickly with balls over the top from deep into the path of Burak Yilmaz. The Lille striker showed that he still has quite a bit of pace about him, but most of his efforts ended up being either tame, or blocked by the excellent Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. As Turkey’s possession increased in the second half, any control they had over the match completely disappeared. More on that to follow.

italy – 4-3-3

(GK) Gianluigi Donnarumma, (RB) Alessandro Florenzi, (CB) Leonardo Bonucci (CB), Giorgio Chiellini (LB) Leonardo Spinazzola, (DM) Jorginho, (CM) Nicolo Barella, (CM) Manuel Locatelli, (RW) Domenico Berardi, (CF) Ciro Immobile, (LW) Lorenzo Insigne

out of possession

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Italy spent most of the match with the ball (63%), and as a result, didn’t have too much defending to do. However, when they did set up in a defensive stance it looked very much like a lopsided 3-5-2, which was due to the types of positions players were already taking up in attack. Spinazzola for example was often so high in attack that his defensive position hardly ever reached the back-line again before Italy won possession. Instead, he joined a compact midfield unit alongside Berardi tucking in on the right. Insigne and Immobile often remained withdrawn from the rest and ready to be used as outlets. The shape was lopsided in that it often favoured the left, partially due to Italy’s use of Spinazzola in attack throughout the first half in particular, and also due to Turkey’s inclination to attack down the right.

Positively from an Italy perspective, they were excellent at winning the ball back in the few moments they were called into action. Bonucci and Chiellini dealt with balls over the top expertly well and showed that they still have more than enough left in the tank to play at this level. Any time the ball got past them, Donnarumma was also more than up for the task. But Turkey found it very difficult to even get that far, partially down to their own sloppiness, but also down to Italy’s midfielders. Jorginho and Locatelli were excellent in winning the ball back before Turkey could get going, and Barella stepped up his aggressive pressing in the second half to great effect. Led by their three midfielders, Italy defended throughout the match with a sense of fire and urgency, ready to be robust and disrupt play, even if it meant giving away fouls.

in possession

Italy built out from the back in a diamond shape, using three defenders and Jorginho. This also frequently became more of a pentagon, with Locatelli also deep in a 3-2-5 shape, as the rest of the Italians floated high and dropped deep at varying moments to pull Turkish players out of position. Lorenzo Insigne was one of the most frequent players to drop deep to pick up possession from his role on the left, while Spinazzola and Immobile did so as well. This shape was fluid at different moments, with Florenzi and later Di Lorenzo sometimes also hugging the touch line and maintaining more width on the right side. This fluidity and the overall ability of their players allowed Italy to be very comfortable throughout the match. But that comfort was also met with much in the way of frustration in the first half.

Italy’s possession was smooth and efficient in the first half, but they were missing that cutting edge to really break the deadlock. It was very much smooth jazz, when what they needed was heavy metal. In the second half they decreased the amount of time they spent on the ball, simultaneously increasing their counter attacking, verticality, and energy. By taking this approach, Italy were now able to attack with urgency, up against a defense that did not have time to properly set up. To elaborate, by having possession and throwing numbers forward, Turkey were naturally more unbalanced defensively, and much easier to break down. This resulted in three goals in the second half, completely undoing all the hard work the Turks had done to set up shop in the opening 45.

Moving into the next match for the Italians, they could do more to exploit the right side on switches of play. Since they had such a reliance on getting Insigne and Spinazzola on the ball in the first half, space was often available to exploit with Berardi and Florenzi on switches. But instead of these switches, Italy often pumped the ball forward or persisted down the left. In the second half their attack became much more balanced, and Mancini clearly told Giovanni Di Lorenzo to be more adventurous in galloping up the right wing and overlapping Domenico Berardi, who started to invert more in response. If they can achieve the same balance and find ways to score goals through their possession in future matches, Italy will certainly be one of the sides to watch at this summer’s tournament.


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In the first match of Euro 2020, Italy completely dominated from start to finish and ended up 3-0 victors. Turkey defended resolutely in the first half and held on for as long as they could, but eventually Italy’s star power took over. As Turkey’s control of the ball and possession increased, Italy only became more and more comfortable, as they gradually stepped up the urgency to which they attacked. The match leaves Italy top of Group A with much hope for what could be achieved this summer. Turkey meanwhile are rock bottom, and in need of a response in their next match against Wolves.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of the opening fixture at this summer’s 2020 European Championships between Turkey and Italy. Be sure to check out more Match Analyses, Euro 2020 articles and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber to the site also be sure to check out our free and paid subscription options. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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