Italy boss Roberto Mancini is confident his side can learn from their mistakes after labouring to a 1-1 draw against Poland in the Nations League opener in Bologna.
Mancini is looking to rebuild after the Azzurri’s failure to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
However, it was a rather lacklustre display for much of the clash at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, where Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski had volleyed Poland into a deserved first-half lead.
Italy, though, at least produced a spark during the latter stages, when impressive substitute Federico Chiesa, son of former Italy striker Enrico, had been brought down to earn a penalty, which was coolly dispatched by Chelsea midfielder Jorginho.
Tougher challenges lie ahead for Italy, who face Portugal in Lisbon on Monday night.
Mancini, though, feels there is plenty to build on.
“It was the first important match of this new cycle. There were too many mistakes at the start, but we did much better in the second half,” the Italy boss told reporters.
“We were too imprecise technically. We need to improve this and we can certainly do so.”
Forward Mario Balotelli made his first competitive appearance for the Azzurri since the 2014 World Cup, having been drafted back into the international squad by his former club boss at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.
The Nice striker, though, had a limited impact, often isolated in attack and was replaced after an hour.
Mancini, though, hopes Balotelli will continue to make a contribution on the road towards Euro 2020.
“Mario needs to play, he is an experienced player on the international stage, but his fitness levels are an issue right now,” the Italy boss said.
England captain Harry Kane has brushed aside concerns over his workload, insisting his early-season statistics are nothing to worry about.
That Kane found himself facing questions over his mental and physical freshness on the eve of Spain’s Nations League visit to Wembley was perhaps puzzling; he will, after all, be collecting the World Cup Golden Boot before kick-off and has already netted twice in four games this term.
But there are wider worries about the burden he carries for club and country, both of whom treat him as indispensable, and how it is shaping his game.
Six goals in Russia were enough to net him his newest glittering award but he failed to find the net in his final three games of the tournament and he has been more shot-shy than usual since returning to Premier League action.
The 25-year-old has made just 10 attempts on goal in four outings, half Sergio Aguero’s number and three shy of Tottenham team-mate Christian Eriksen.
Kane, who will mark his achievements in Russia by wearing a specially commissioned pair of golden boots against Spain, reads little into those figures beyond the fact that he may simply have become more efficient in front of goal.
“People are looking as if I’ve changed my game but I’ve scored the same number as after four games last season. Maybe I’ve become a better finisher,” he said.
“Whether it’s 10 shots or 28 shots, I’ve scored the same number. And I’ve scored in two games rather than one.
“There are always little things that people pick out of your game but I feel good, I feel sharp. That’s what important.”
Despite that self-assurance, Kane remains hungry to get even better and has been able to make a refreshingly honest assessment of his efforts in the summer.
“I think I could have done better at the World Cup if I’m perfectly honest,” he explained.
“It was great, I scored some good goals and important goals but there was stuff I could have done better as well…certain finishes, certain movements.
“To win the Golden Boot at the World Cup and feel like I could have done better is exciting. There’s a lot of improvement (to go) and I’m at a high level already.”
Tottenham have rarely found themselves able to voluntarily take their key player out of the firing line, with his nominal stand-ins Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente seemingly unable to match his level.
Kane has not ruled out the possibility of a mid-season rest at some stage, though, and feels Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is open to the prospect.
“The manager is very good at managing that throughout the season,” he said.
“I feel fine now, everyone’s fresh, but there might be stages in the season where you have a dip.
“That’s where the manager comes in and you might get a few days’ break, or rested for a game.”
Brazilian coach Tite said his players are getting over the pain of their World Cup exit after securing a convincing 2-0 win against the USA.
The Selecao were dumped out of the tournament in Russia at the quarter-final stage by Belgium, with star striker Neymar only finding the net twice in five matches.
But he rolled home a soft penalty just before the break after Roberto Firmino had given Brazil the lead on 11 minutes at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Tite was quoted on UOL as saying: “It was above my expectation, it did not have brilliance at all times, but the offensive opportunities are there.
“We are getting back on top of a pain and frustration of elimination.”
Looking forward to the side’s next friendly against El Salvador on Tuesday, he said: “In the second game, there will be a greater opportunity for other athletes to start.
Opportunity of some, responsibility to perform for others.”
The pace of the game slowed down at the hour mark – with Brazil making use of all the permitted six substitutes to bring on Willian and give debuts to Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta.
And Brazil held firm despite the USA trying in vain to find space in their opponent’s half and saw out a comfortable win at the ground which will host the 2026 World Cup final.
Dave Sarachan, who took over as manager of the United States after the side missed out on World Cup qualification, said there were “hit and miss moments” for his youthful side.
He said: “I thought our coordination of trying to step out wasn’t very good in the first half, we got pulled apart a bit; I thought the second half was an improvement.
“But overall this was a great game for us to play, in these types of games playing a team like Brazil who’s arguably as good as any team on the planet, it challenges you in ways that can only improve this group moving forward.”