Italian striker Ciro Immobile is looking forward to expelling the demons of failing to qualify for the last World Cup in Russia, when his country returns to participate in the major tournaments from the European Cup soccer gate, Friday, against Turkey in the opening match at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
Observers believe that coach Roberto Mancini’s squad is capable of playing the role of the dark horse in the finals, after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
But the four-time world champion does not possess a striking attacking line like Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, France’s Kylian Mabe and England’s Harry Kane.
Despite scoring a record 150 goals with Lazio in five seasons, Immobile has not yet reached the super-scorer rank that defenders in the continent fear.
The 31-year-old striker bore the brunt of criticism for his inability to score in the World Cup qualifying playoff loss against Sweden in November 2017.
“I didn’t want to keep playing, the thoughts were dark and it was hard for me to control them,” Immobile recalls.
Mancini rebuilt his squad from scratch, leading a team that had not lost in 27 consecutive matches.
Immobile then won the European Golden Shoe title, scoring 36 goals with Lazio in the local league season 2019-2020, and then adding 20 goals last season, in which Lazio finished sixth.
For the former German Borussia Dortmund striker, this could be the last chance to shine on the international scene with Squadra Azzura.
“I have a strong personality,” he insists.
“I’m not technically talented, but I make up for it with strength, perseverance and cunning.”
The Italian national team has not achieved much success since Immobile came to the national team in 2014. He scored 13 goals in 46 international matches, but he found stability in the era of Mancini, in which he scored 6 goals.
Italy’s attacking line also includes Andrea Belotti, a Turin player, who scored 12 goals in 33 matches.
But the 27-year-old has limited experience. He won one second division title with Palermo in 2014.
Belotti scored 13 goals for Torino last season, to avoid relegation to 17th place in Serie A.
Behind Immobile and Belotti, there is the young Giacomo Rasbadori, who could give Mancini an additional offensive option.
On Wednesday, the Italian Federation announced the withdrawal of Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini from the squad due to a muscle injury in his thigh, and requested his replacement with Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli.
Another midfielder, Marco Verratti, is likely to be absent, as he has not recovered from the injury, and there are doubts about Stefano Sensi’s participation in the midfield as well.
– ‘King Burak’ –
Despite not losing to their next opponent Turkey in 10 matches (7 wins and 3 draws), Italy and its defense may face the threat of veteran striker Burak Yilmaz.
photo1″King Burak” is playing in the finals, excited about winning the French League title in his first season with Lille, and he was the best scorer in his ranks with 16 goals in 28 games.
Yilmaz will be the most prominent threat with Turkey, after scoring 5 goals in four matches for his country in 2021.
“Our main goal is the match against Italy,” said Yilmaz, 35, knowing that his country will then face Wales and Switzerland in the first group.
“We play better against the big teams. We have to win this match. We are not afraid of anyone on the field. We want to start the tournament in the best possible way and take Turkey to the place it deserves,” Yilmaz continued.
He added, “Our impressive results in the European and World Cup qualifiers raised the expectations among our fans. We are aware of that and we bear the responsibility.”
A year after the tournament was postponed due to the Corona pandemic, it kicks off Friday in Rome with the participation of 24 teams and hosted by 11 cities across the European continent.
It is expected that 16,000 spectators will attend the Olympic Stadium, at 25% of its capacity, according to the Corona protocol.
For Italy, holders of the 1968 title, it will be the first match in a major tournament since the quarter-finals of the 2016 European Cup, when they lost to Germany on penalties.
© 2021 AFP