I took a deep dive into the history books and crunched the numbers to look for the Euro 2020 winner.
How much significance should be assigned to form, experience, age, time the manager has been in his job, world ranking, the quality of club players come from or the relative merits of defence and attack?
The Chelsea midfielder is not a player English football has warmed to, but he is now a Europa League and Champions League winner with his club and the fulcrum of Italy’s midfield. He may not be blessed with much running power or goal threat, nor crash into any booming tackles, but he makes his teams play.
With no host nation involved, it is a European Championship opener with a difference as Italy host Turkey in Rome 12 months after the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
These two nations were in the same group at Euro 2000, when Antonio Conte was on the scoresheet in an Italian victory back when his hair was not made of horse tail. Italy have won four World Cups, but have not won a Euros since 1968, losing to France in the 2000 final and Spain in the 2012 final. With England callow, Belgium aged, Germany fragile and Spain untested, Italy are well fancied to sneak up on the rails having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. That was a cataclysm, but Italy have bounced back since. Roberto Mancini is one of the best managers in the tournament, and has Italy on a 27-game unbeaten run. Cast aside all preconceptions about them being a possession-averse, conservative side – with Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella in midfield they have a technical trio reminiscent of some of the best Spain teams of yonder. They do lack a centre forward of class, and still rely on Giorgio Chiellini and Leanardo Bonnuci at the back. With France, Germany and Portugal in the same group, the draw could also be on their side.
Turkey have plenty of admirers having finished runners-up to favourites France in their qualifying group and keeping eight clean sheets in 10 matches. They were more porous in the Nations League so it depends which side turns up. Juventus centre-half Merih Demiral will be familiar with plenty of his opponents tonight, as will creative AC Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Caglar Soyuncu and Ozan Kabak are among their other central defensive options, while right-back Zeki Celik and veteran striker Burak Yilmaz won the French league with Lille last season. Manager Şenol Güneş is vastly experienced with a reputation for attacking football.
After coverage of the opening ceremony, we will have full team news.