Italy got their Euro 2020 campaign off the mark with an impressive 3-0 win over Turkey in the curtain-raiser for the postponed continental tournament at home in Rome on Friday.
Playing their first major tournament in five years after failing to qualify for the 2018 world Cup, all the goals came in the second half in front of a Stadio Olimpico that was filled to a quarter of its capacity.
Merih Demiral’s own goal put Italy ahead before Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne netted for Roberto Mancini’s side in the Group A opener.
The win capped an emotional night in the Italian capital which saw 16,000 fans return to the Stadio Olimpico.
A spectacular sound and light show and fireworks preceded kick-off for the month-long 24-team event, which will be played across 11 countries having been delayed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There was a performance by the Italian National Police orchestra, a parade of huge inflatable balloons on the pitch, tenor Andrea Bocelli sang ‘Nessun Dorma’ before a virtual performance from Martin Garrix, Bono and The Edge.
Former Italy World Cup winners Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti, who played for Lazio and Roma during their careers at the Stadio Olimpico, carried the ball to the centre of the pitch before kick-off.
On the pitch, Italy dominated early on with a three-man attack led by Immobile, who plays for Lazio.
The 31-year-old had several near misses in the first half, coming up against a solid Turkey defence who held their own.
Turkey could also thank goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir for pulling off a big save on 23 minutes, tipping over Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini’s powerful goal-bound header off an Insigne corner.
Italy finally broke through eight minutes after the break when the unfortunate Demiral found himself in the path of a Federico Berardi cross for Immobile, the Juventus defender bundling the ball into his own net.
Leonardo Spinazzola had a chance for a second minutes later, with Immobile sending the rebound wide.
Immobile finally got his goal, his 14th for Italy, and first in a major tournament, in the 66th minute, scoring from a rebound after Cakir had saved from Spinazzola.
And Insigne curled in the third with 11 minutes to go.
Turkey and in-form captain Burak Yilmaz could not find a way back.
Italy’s only European title was in 1968, with Turkey’s best effort a run to the semi-finals at Euro 2008.
Italy play Switzerland in Rome next Wednesday, with Turkey taking on Wales in Baku.