Ambitious Italy face talented Turkey in curtain raiser
Euro 2020 finally kicks off tonight as Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal prepare to defend their title and world champions France seek a rare double a year after the tournament was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
France's fearsome forward line makes them favourites to win a third European crown at the pan-continental event, while top-ranked Belgium and a youthful England side will be major threats.
Five years on from their last major tournament appearance, Italy take centre stage once more when they welcome Group A rivals Turkey to Rome's Stadio Olimpico for the opening game of Euro 2020 tonight.
The Azzurri's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was a national sporting tragedy for the four-time world champions.
But manager Roberto Mancini has since built an attractive, exuberant side that comes into the tournament with ambitions of reaching the London final, five years on from the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Having three home games in front of around 16,000 fans will be a boost to Italian hopes, which are high inside and outside the training camp.
"This Italy team has more quality than the 2016 team, but we have to prove that," said defender Alessandro Florenzi.
However, the Azzurri face a tough opening day task against a resilient and talented Turkey side that impressed during qualifying stages and has a penchant for performing in big games.
Turkey took four points from two games against world champions France in Euros qualifying and has since beaten the Netherlands 4-2 in a World Cup qualifier and earned 3-3 scorelined draws with Germany and Croatia in international friendlies.
History is on the hosts' side, though. Italy have never lost to Turkey in 10 previous meetings in all competitions, winning seven and drawing three.
Meanwhile, state-of-the-art technology will bring Martin Garrix, Bono and The Edge together with fans across Europe through virtual performances for a celebratory curtain-raiser prior to the opening match of UEFA Euro 2020 in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Players to watch
From Kylian Mbappe to Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane to Robert Lewandowski and Gareth Bale to Kevin de Bruyne, established stars are set to shine across Europe this summer. It will also be the perfect opportunity for young players to showcase their talents as fans get the chance to savour some of the best players on the planet. There will be some unfamiliar faces hoping that this is their breakout tournament in the way the 2018 World Cup was for France's Kylian Mbappe. There is plenty of talent on show among the 24 teams involved and players like -- Alexander Isak (Sweden), Phil Foden (England), Jamal Musiala (Germany), Pedri (Spain), Joao Felix (Portugal), Jeremy Doku (Belgium), Jules Kounde (France), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy), Dominik Szoboszlai (Hungary), Nuno Mendes (Portugal), Eric Garcia (Spain), Donyell Malen (The Netherlands), Ilya Zabarnyi (Ukraine) and Marcus Thuram (France)-- could make a huge impact at the tournament.
- For the first time in history, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used in the European championship.
- Wembley Stadium will host the semi-final and final for the second time within 25 years.
- The opening phase will feature six groups of four teams, with the top two in each progressing to the knockout stage. The four best third-place finishers will also qualify for the last 16, with all of the knockout rounds being played as one-off matches.
- If a match cannot start or cannot be played in full, it is, as a rule, played or completed on the next day, if possible at the same venue.
- If two teams facing each other in their last group game are dead level, and draw, their position in the group is determined by a penalty shoot-out.
- Each team has a maximum of 18 people allowed on the substitutes' bench, including a team doctor.
- Goalkeepers can be replaced during the tournament in the event of physical incapacity, even if one or two in the squad are still available.