A new era for Italy and the Netherlands began with a 2-0 win for the Italians in the sides’ friendly international in Bari on Thursday. It was a match effectively ended as a contest after just 10 minutes when, already a goal to the good courtesy of Ciro Immobile’s strike, Italy were awarded a penalty for a foul on the debutant Simone Zaza by Bruno Martins Indi, who was shown a straight red card. Daniele de Rossi made no mistake from the spot.
It meant that Antonio Conte’s reign as Italy coach got off to a winning start, while there was early disappointment for Guus Hiddink in his second spell in charge of the Dutch. After shockingly leaving Juventus following a run of three straight Serie A titles this summer, Conte has been charged with lifting Italy in the wake of a hugely disappointing failure to make it out of their group at the 2014 World Cup.
The early signs were certainly encouraging. With new signing Mario Balotelli left out, last season’s Serie A top scorer put the Azzurri in front in just the third minute. New Borussia Dortmnund signing Immobile raced onto a long pass forward from Leonardo Bonucci and took the ball past the stranded Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen before stroking the ball into the empty net.
It was soon 2-0 following more poor Dutch defending. In his international bow, Sassuolo forward Zaza took the ball inside Martins Indi before being clumsily bundled over by the center-back. Despite being a friendly, the referee showed no mercy and sent the Porto man on his way. And Hiddink’s misery was compounded when De Rossi sent Cillessen the wrong way form the penalty spot. The visitors to the Stadio San Nicola managed to prevent the score line from getting worse but managed just a single shot on target throughout what turned into disappointing preparation for the beginning of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in the Czech Republic next Tuesday. Italy’s attempts to make it to France begin with a trip to Norway the same day.