Spain came out on top in a rematch of the European Championship final of two years ago, with a second-half goal from Pedro handing them a 1-0 win over Italy at Madrid’s Vicente Calderon.
With just three months to go before the World Cup, both sides will be reasonably happy with their displays, with opportunities given to players on both sides to impress and try and earn their way to Brazil this summer.
Not least Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid striker, playing in his home stadium, was making his international debut against Italy for the second time, having won his first cap for Brazil almost exactly 12 months ago. With his allegiance now switched, there was much scrutiny on his performance and there will be even more if he is selected to return to the country of his birth at the World Cup. Given the amount of pre-match discussion, it was perhaps not surprising that Costa, despite staying on for the full 90 minutes, failed to quite replicate the sharpness of his club form this season.
Costa was also helped kept quiet by an impressive Italy debut for Parma defender Gabriel Paletta. With Giorgio Chiellini left on the bench, Paletta formed a strong partnership with Andrea Barzagli.
The match had gotten off to a fast start, with both teams coming close to breaking the deadlock in the opening minutes. First Jordi Alba had a chance after being played in by Andres Iniesta but saw Italy’s defense get back to close him out. At the other end, the woodwork was struck when Alessio Cerci showed a flash of the fine displays he has produced for Torino this season by going past Sergio Ramos down the left of the box and seeing his cross-come-shot over Iker Casillas come back off the far post.
It was Spain, who were controlling the game with Thiago Alcantara dictating the play in the center of midfield. Yet, Italy arguably had the better chances of the period. Dani Osvaldo, in particular, had a clear sight of goal but the striker on-loan at Juventus curled wide of the target.
Andrea Pirlo came off the bench at the interval and it took some good defending from Jordi Alba to prevent the Italian veteran’s pass from being seized upon by Osvaldo.
But it was the introduction of David Silva for Spain that helped the home side to display much more attacking threat in the second half. And it was the Manchester City attacking midfielder, who did his prospects of a starting role in Brazil no harm, who played a key role in the game’s only goal in the 63rd minute.
Silva drove forward toward the edge of the box and looked to play a one-two with the equally impressive Iniesta. The Barcelona man’s fine flick was well intercepted by Paletta but the ball rolled into the path of Pedro whose low shot squirmed past a disappointed Gianluigi Buffon.
Silva was again to the fore with a nice run and pass to fellow-substitute Santi Cazorla before the Arsenal midfielder’s shot was deflected over. There was a third debutant on the pitch when Ciro Immobile, co-owned by Juventus, came on up front following his breakthrough season with Torino. But Italy were denied their last chance for an equalizer when some alert play by Xabi Alonso to head a corner behind prevented Mattia Destro from finishing.