Argentina defeated Italy 2-1 at Stadio Olimpico in a thrilling international friendly on Wednesday afternoon.
Alejandro Sabella's squad got goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega, which was enough to hold off the hosts, who got a late cracker of a goal from youngster Lorenzo Insigne.
Italy 1 – Argentina 2. All Goals. http://t.co/uRM4ESy4aB— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) August 14, 2013
Each team was missing its most dangerous attacking threat in Lionel Messi and Mario Balotelli, but that had very little effect in slowing down the opening pace.
It took Argentina all of two minutes to create its first real threat against a defense that surprisingly featured Daniele De Rossi at center-back, as the ageless Gianluigi Buffon was called upon to make a solid save on a low drive by Higuain.
After the squads traded counterattacks that teased but didn't turn into anything, Higuain got the scoring started when he cut past De Rossi before thumping the ball past Buffon.
Sky Sports correspondent Paulo Freitas gives us a look at the goal:
Higuaín's goal for Argentina against Italy: https://t.co/BZFkEFnRNI— Paulo Freitas (@Cynegeticus) August 14, 2013
The Mirror's Twitter account, meanwhile, pointed out the pain that strike might have caused the once-interested Arsenal, as well as giving us an awesome new nickname:
Goal Argentina vs Italy! Look away Arsenal fans, it was Napoli striker HIGGY SMALLS who made it 1-0— MirrorFootball (@MirrorFootball) August 14, 2013
It was mostly 50-50 for the rest of the half, with each side failing to produce on golden opportunities.
In the 41st minute, Antonio Candreva delivered one of his many teasing balls into an unmarked Claudio Marchisio, who inexplicably missed the frame.
Moments later, Argentina struck on a counterattack and Angel Di Maria delivered a wonderful low cross to Rodrigo Palacio at the back post, who missed the sitter, sending the ball flying over an open goal.
This Inter fan site gave us a look at the miss from the current Nerazzurri forward:
Palacio missed a great chance against Italy http://t.co/SbHEhkwY60— SempreInter (@SempreIntercom) August 14, 2013
Still, Alejandro Sabella's squad entered the break ahead, and it would take them just minutes to double its lead in the second half.
The recently brought on Banega took a pass from Higuain and slotted it perfectly past Buffon with an absolutely clinical finish.
Italy continued to attack down two goals, and after controlling most of the possession, finally broke through in the 75th minute when Insigne curled in a beautiful strike from outside the box into the top corner, leaving Mariano Andujar helpless.
Cristiano Acconci gives us a look:
Insigne goal https://t.co/AQsmbK4iCH— Cristiano Acconci (@MrAcconci) August 14, 2013
The future is bright for this 22-year-old.
Argentina would hold on for the 2-1 victory. The Albiceleste controlled only 45 percent of the possession but looked far more efficient in the final third, earning an impressive road victory in the friendly.
|Gianluigi Buffon||B||Mariano Andujar||A-|
|Christian Maggio||B-||Hugo Campagnaro||B|
|Daniele De Rossi||B-||Federico Fernandez||B+|
|Giorgio Chiellini||B+||Ezequiel Garay||B|
|Luca Antonelli||B||Jose Maria Basanta||B|
|Riccardo Montolivo||B-||Lucas Biglia||B-|
|Marco Verratti||B||Javier Mascherano||B+|
|Claudio Marchisio||C||Angel Di Maria||A-|
|Antonio Candreva||B+||Rodrigo Palacio||B-|
|Emanuele Giaccherini||B-||Erik Lamela||B|
|Pablo Daniel Osvaldo||B-||Gonzalo Higuain||A|
|Lorenzo Isigne||A||Ever Banega||A-|
|Alessandro Diamanti||A-||Ricardo Alvarez||B|
|Federico Marchetti||B+||Augusto Fernandez||INC|
|Alberto Aquilani||B||Maxi Rodriguez||C+|
|Alessandro Florenzi||B||Fabricio Colccini||B-|
|Alessio Cerci||A-||Ezequiel Lavezzi||C+|
Daniele De Rossi, Italy: B-
It was an up-and-down performance from De Rossi, the usual box-to-box midfielder who once again impressively displayed his versatility by stepping in at center-back.
How would you grade De Rossi's performance?
On the one hand, he made several timely tackles and interceptions in the back, while also displaying his typical accuracy. According to WhoScored.com, he completed 91 percent of his passes and 86 percent of his long balls.
You just don't normally get that kind of precision and playmaking from center-backs.
Still, he got beat pretty badly on Higuain's goal and was caught out of position on Banega's.
It was an odd experiment by Cesare Prandelli, putting De Rossi at center-back in a back four. Not only did the maestro make a couple of untimely mistakes, but he was usually too far back to serve as much of a playmaker.
De Rossi can undoubtedly be effective at CB, but this wasn't his best performance.
Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina: A
Playing against mostly Serie A standouts, the former Real Madrid star gave us a glimpse of what he is going to provide in his debut season at Napoli: efficiency.
According to WhoScored.com, the dynamic striker received just 30 touches in 60 minutes but still managed to turn those into two shots (both on target), one goal and one key pass (for an assist). He also completed several dribbles and completed 100 percent of passes.
Argentina's next match comes on Sept. 10 in a World Cup qualifier away against Paraguay.
Italy will also play in a World Cup qualifier, hosting Bulgaria on Sept. 6.