Rome (AP) — Italy, the first country in Europe to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, seems somehow appropriate to host the opening game of the European Championship.
Even if Euro 2020 started in 2021.
The biggest spectator in Italy for a year and a half will see the Azuri team aiming for the title play the Turkish team aiming to make a surprise at Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Friday.
“I’ve been waiting for this European Championship for a year, but I can’t wait to hear 15,000 people singing the national anthem,” said Italian veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci. “Soccer with fans in the stadium is another sport.”
After embarrassingly failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy won all 10 games that qualified for Euro 2020 and played 27 games undefeated.
“We want to go forever,” Bonucci said. “The other national teams have more experience, but we can play with anyone. (Romelu) There is no Lukaku or Cristiano Ronaldo. Our strength is the team.”
Turkey scored four points from France in qualifying, defeated the World Cup champion 2-0, lost only one match and finished second in the group.
“We are proud to participate in this tournament and play in the opening match,” said Turkish coach Şenol Günes. “Every opening game is a surprise and we hope we can do it in the spring.”
The match also features some political backing after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi named Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “dictator” in April. Turkey summoned an Italian ambassador to protest, and a spokesman for the president demanded that Draghi withdraw his words. Draghi, however, did not issue a public apology or withdrawal.
Draghi will be attending the G7 Summit in the UK on Friday, so he has no plans to attend the match. Erdogan will not be present either.
The other two Group A teams, Wales and Switzerland, will meet on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
This year’s tournament will be held in 11 cities scattered across the European continent.
The Italian government has decided that it can fill up to 25% of the capacity of four games hosted by Stadio Olimpico.
This equates to a maximum of 15,948 spectators.
Ticket holders are required to present one of three documents in order to enter Stadio Olimpico. Certificate from the Italian health authorities showing that they have been vaccinated with COVID-19, another document from the Italian health authorities showing that they have recovered from the coronavirus within 6 months, or within 48 hours of kickoff Negative test results issued in.
More than 2,000 tickets for the opening game have been sold in Turkey, but many of those fans have no plans to play in the match.
Fans arriving at the stadium will measure their body temperature with a thermal scanner and will be taken to the quarantine area by anyone with fever or other coronavirus symptoms.
The protocol seems like a small price to pay after Italy became the epicenter of a pandemic in Europe in early 2020, as cities like Bergamo struggled to catch up with the sick and dead. More than 125,000 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in the country, affecting more than 4 million people, including many members of the Italian team (both athletes and coaches).
Italy has won without scoring goals in the last eight games since Roberto Mancini took over as coach, and has scored 20 goals in 32 games.
Record goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has retired from international football after failing to qualify for the World Cup, but Italy remains solid in the position of 22-year-old Gianluigi Buffon between the posts. Bonucci and Italian captain Giorgio Chiellini also form a strong and experienced pair in central defense.
One of Turkey’s main strengths is also its rear robustness. Only three goals were allowed in the qualifying, and in the recent World Cup qualifying, Memphis Depay and Erling Haaland were able to keep no points.
Both sides are also center forward and strong.
Ciro Immobile won the European Golden Shoe Award in 2019-20 when he matched his Serie A record with 36 goals.
Burak Yılmaz is Turkey’s second-highest scorer in history, lagging behind retired Hakan Şükür (51 goals) with 29 goals.
Opera and airplane
Andrea Bocelli sings Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma” at the opening ceremony of the tournament prior to the kick-off.
The ceremony will also feature a virtual performance with U2 star Bono and The Edge with DJ Martin Garrix.
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Andrew Dampf is located at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
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A year later, Italy and Turkey will play an opening game at Euro 2020 | WGN Radio 720
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