Turkey 0 Italy 3
The start of the tournament and the first game was overshadowed by the exciting news that Scotland’s players intend to kneel, when they play England next week. They had originally not intended to 'take a knee' – thinking it rightly (to judge from their press statements) a pointless and embarrassing bit of showing off. But they changed their mind, presumably after fevered phone calls from south of the border. They should have stuck to their guns: the kneeling has become a ludicrous vanity project for Gareth Southgate and the Football Association. It gets sillier by the day.
Needless to say, neither the young Turks nor the more elderly Italians did anything so stupid as to kneel and nor will Croatia on Sunday. In Rome, the Ottomans were hammered by what is looking like a horribly competent Italian side. Penned back in their own half for almost the entirety of the game and in their own penalty area for most of that. It could have ended up with one of those scores that used to occur when western countries played the Turks at football, and 8-0 wasn’t unusual. I think Italy could win the tournament, but then I always say that and in the end the Italians get evicted early on and the players are greeted at the airport by histrionic perpetual adolescents pelting them with gnocchi, gelato and dismembered pieces of Vespa motorcycles.
I have been looking forward to this tournament for a year and Southgate’s pigheadedness only slightly diminishes the pleasure to be had. On Saturday, Wales play Switzerland in that famous European footballing redoubt of Baku. Lose and I fear they are out.
Player of the match……………………..Insigne (Italy)
Foreigners with funny names………Italy……..Immobile (he wasn’t)……Turkey….Okay (he wasn’t).