Argentina‘s new-look side played with “great intensity” in their convincing 3-0 win over Guatemala, interim head coach Lionel Scaloni said.
La Albiceleste took on the Central American side in a friendly in Los Angeles, their first outing since a 4-3 defeat to France in the last 16 of this summer’s World Cup.
The Argentina national team’s Twitter page used the hashtag #NewChallenge to refer to the game and it was a very different line-up to the one which played in Russia with Lionel Messi among those not making the trip Stateside.
Thirteen of the 27-man squad were uncapped going into the game, while only four had appeared more than 10 times.
Scaloni said: “They understood very well what it is to play with this shirt, and we are proud that several of these guys have been able to play for the first time with the national team.
“We did what we wanted in the first half, I’m very satisfied, we gave the match a great intensity.
“I think we fulfilled the objective, especially in the first half, I hope these guys are the future of the national team.”
Debutant Gonzalo Martinez got the opener from the penalty spot after 27 minutes after Giovani Lo Celso’s shot struck the elbow of Elias Enoc Vasquez, and the lead was doubled eight minutes later when Guatemala failed to properly clear a corner and a Lo Celso shot from outside the area whistled past Paulo Motta.
Exequiel Palacios fed Giovanni Simeone the ball in the box for Argentina’s third just before half-time.
Simeone, son of former Atletico Madrid player and now manager Diego, said: “I’m very happy. I have great team-mates who give everything to win.”
Guatemala were playing their first international match since 2016 after being suspended by FIFA.
The gulf between the two sides – one ranked 11th in the world and the other 146th – was clear in the opening period, with Guatemala unable to contain the pace and tactical advantage of their opposition.
The second half was a quieter affair with Argentina taking the foot off the gas with the result beyond doubt.
Scaloni gave runouts to debutants Alan Franco and Walter Kannemann as the two-time World Cup winners started a new era with a win.
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.”