Football

Upwardly mobile Italy need Immobile push

Azzurri hope their most experienced striker can hit the ground running at Euros

Italy's top striker Ciro Immobile will be looking to shake off the demons of World Cup failure as the Azzurri return to the big stage at Euro 2020.

Roberto Mancini's resurgent four-time world champions, who will host Turkey in the tournament opener in Rome's Stadio Olimpico tomorrow morning (Singapore time), are being touted as possible dark horses after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

GROUP A
TURKEY ITALY

But Italy lack the high-profile attackers of their rivals, such as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix, France's Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema and England's Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford.

Despite a club-record 150 goals in five seasons for Lazio, Immobile has been unable to shake off the tag of being unable to score when it matters.

The 31-year-old bore the brunt of criticism for failing to find the net in the World Cup play-off defeat by Sweden in November 2017.

"I didn't want to play any more, it was too much sadness to manage and negative thoughts," recalled Immobile.

Mancini has rebuilt Italy since, with the team on a 27-match unbeaten run.

Immobile won the European Golden Shoe in the 2019/20 season for his 36 league goals in 37 games, and scored 20 last campaign as Lazio finished sixth.

For the former Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla reject, this could be his last chance to shine on a bigger stage.

"I have a strong personality," he insists.

"I'm not very gifted technically, but where I don't get there with the technique, I get there with strength, tenacity and cunning."

Success in national team colours has been slow to arrive since Immobile made his debut in 2014.

He has scored 13 goals in 46 games, but has found more consistency under Mancini with six goals.

Italy's strike options include Torino skipper Andrea Belotti, who has scored 12 goals in 33 games. However, the 27-year-old has limited experience. His only trophy is the 2014 Serie B title with Palermo.

Belotti scored 13 league goals for Torino last season, as the club avoided relegation by finishing 17th.

Behind Immobile and Belotti, 21-year-old Sassuolo forward Giacomo Raspadori has received a call-up to the senior national side, giving them another attacking option.

Despite an unbeaten record against Group A rivals Turkey in 11 previous meetings - eight wins and three draws - Italy's defenders could have their work cut out against star forward Burak Yilmaz.

The 35-year-old comes into the Euros fresh from leading Lille to their fourth league title in his first season in France, top-scoring for the club with 16 goals in 28 games.

He will be his team's main goal threat, having scored five goals in four matches for Turkey this year.

"Our main objective is the match against Italy," said Yilmaz, of a group which includes Wales and Switzerland.

"We are playing better against the big teams. We have to win this game.

"We are not afraid of anyone on the pitch.

"We want to start the competition in the best possible way and take Turkey to the place they deserve." - AFP

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