Spain vs. Italy: 5 Things We Learned
New faces graced the lineups of both teams. Diego Costa started as the No. 9 for Spain, while Gabriel Paletta made his Italian debut in the heart of the Azzurri defense alongside Andrea Barzagli.
More than a World Cup preview, this match was an excellent opportunity for both coaches to try out fringe players or unleash new tactical ideas.
Here are five things we learned from this international friendly between two sides that could meet in a high-profile match at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Italy's Attack Suffers Without Stars
Without Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli used a makeshift trident of Dani Osvaldo, Alessio Cerci and Antonio Candreva.
Cerci gave a few problems to the Spanish full-backs. He went on a few signature mazy runs down the flank, always looking for the one-on-one.
Candreva, on the other hand, was anonymous. Meanwhile, Osvaldo squandered a few key chances, including a shot from just inside the Spanish penalty area that sailed a few meters wide.
Diego Costa Needs to Learn How to Play in Spanish System
The tiki-taka was somewhat changed when Vicente Del Bosque decided to use the naturalized Spanish striker from the first minute.
Diego Costa had an ambivalent debut for Spain at the stadium where he has done so much damage with Atletico Madrid.
It has to be said that the central defensive pair of Gabriel Paletta and Andrea Barzagli did a good job of neutralizing the hulking striker, who has scored a goal in nearly every game this season with Los Colchoneros.
That being said, he looked out of sync, as one would expect with someone who is playing with new teammates. In any case, he has a few chances to practice with the first team before Brazil, and it will be interesting to see how much he's used once the real competition rears its beautiful head.
Full-Back Situation Is Pure Guesswork
Which pair of full-backs will Prandelli use at the World Cup? It's anyone's guess.
The match started with Christian Maggio and Domenico Criscito as the wide defensive players, but they were taken off for the Milan duo of Mattia De Sciglio and Ignazio Abate.
The latter performed better against Spain and also seemed to be Prandelli's favored pair at last year's Confederations Cup.
De Sciglio is the future of Italy, while Abate is perhaps the fastest player on Italy's roster.
Out of the four, Maggio is the most vulnerable on the defensive end. He doesn't fit in with the 4-3-3 that Prandelli seems to be favoring after spending a considerable time mimicking Juventus' 3-5-2.
Formation Will Decide Everything
The formation that Prandelli will decide to use will determine which players make sense for that particular tactical setup and which ones will spend the summer watching the tournament from their posh living rooms.
It seems that the manager is trying to veer away from the 3-5-2 that became the blueprint for Juventus' fantastic 49-match undefeated streak. After all, there were times when seven or eight out of the starting XI were Bianconeri players, so it wasn't too far-fetched to put them in a formation they knew very well.
With the wealth of attacking options now available for the Azzurri, it's not shocking to see Prandelli go for a 4-3-3, which exploits the likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Mario Balotelli and other technical attacking players such as Alessio Cerci and Lorenzo Insigne.
For now, expect the 4-3-3 to be the formation of choice once the summer rolls around.
Lucidity Was Not There for Italy
We've seen Italy play a lot better against Spain in the past.
The beautiful, aesthetically pleasing Italian side that Prandelli has worked hard to create was nowhere to be seen in this international friendly.
Then again, the Azzurri were going up against the World Cup favorites, who often choke the opposition in their own half with pinpoint passing and unrelenting pressure.
Once Andrea Pirlo entered during the second half, we saw a bit more of the type of play that Prandelli wants, which revolves around the creativity and vision of the aging, deep-lying playmaker.