Inter's tour starts with a win
Mauro Icardi scored the decisive penalty as Internazionale beat European Champions Real Madrid 3-2 on penalties in their first game of the Guinness International Champions Cup on Saturday in San Francisco.
Forget the earlier, warm-up games in Europe -- this was the beginning of the real preseason for Walter Mazzarri's side. This was a chance for the Nerazzurri to see where they stood against one of the elite teams in world football.
It's one match, one win, but it was a good start to the club's North American tour. Here are five thoughts from Saturday's match.
It is only a friendly, but there were a lot of positives for Mazzarri to take from Saturday's performance. The back three of Nemanja Vidic, Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia played well and physically imposed themselves on the Real Madrid strikers.
Yann M'Vila made his Inter debut in the second half and almost marked it with a spectacular goal, only to see his long-range effort tipped over.
This was not a park the bus performance by the Nerazzurri either. Inter created the best chances of the game in both halves and with a bit of luck could have won the match in regulation time.
Inter's two marquee summer signings have been Vidic and M'Vila, and while both played well on Saturday, Vidic was outstanding.
The Serbian defender was everything Inter hoped he would be. He was physically imposing and solid in defence and showed he still has the pace to be a top centre half in Serie A. Not only did he win the penalty from which Icardi scored, but he also showed great leadership in stepping up to take the first penalty in the shootout.
This past season, Inter were not as strong mentally as they needed to be. When they fell behind, heads seemed to drop, and the team rarely seemed to come from behind to win.
With the departure of Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Samuel and Diego Milito, there have been concerns about the leadership in the dressing room and how Inter would handle adversity this season.
It is only one game, but the Nerazzurri showed a good deal of mental toughness in beating Real. Despite falling behind early to a brilliant Gareth Bale goal, they battled back to tie things up in the 68th minute, when Ruben Sobrino fouled Vidic in the box. Icardi scored from the resulting penalty kick.
Then, in penalty shootout, after quickly taking a 1-0 lead, La Beneamata fell behind 2-1 and looked like they were heading to a shootout defeat. But they kept their nerve, and Juan Pablo Carrizo made a couple big saves as Inter battled back to win 3-2.
The past season, teams took advantage of the Nerazzurri physically. Mazzarri obviously thought so, as the additions of Vidic and M'Vila gives Inter a steel through the middle of the pitch that they have not had in several years.
It was clear from Saturday's game that this a much more physically imposing side than the past year's. Even Ranocchia -- not known as a physical defender -- was seen throwing his weight around during the match.
With teams no longer able to physically push Inter around, more room will open for the creative players such as Hernanes and Mateo Kovacic to weave their magic, which, in turn, should result in more chances, goals and points this season.
The maturity of Mauro Icardi
In Icardi's first season in an Inter Milan shirt, he made as many headlines for his off-the-pitch antics as he did for the nine goals he scored.
The young striker has been linked with a big-money move to either Atletico Madrid or Monaco this summer, and this friendly offered an excellent chance to see if he was ready to build on his performances from the past season, or whether the transfer speculation had turned his head.
Fortunately, it looks like Icardi has decided to not only build on the past season's performance but also become one of the leaders in the team. Icardi showed impeccable maturity to both score the penalty to tie the game and slot home Inter's fifth penalty to win the shootout.
Next up for Inter is a match on Tuesday against Manchester United in Landover, Maryland. United have been impressive in their two preseason games under new boss Louis van Gaal, but Inter will not be overawed, especially after beating the European champions. A win will put Mazzarri's side in pole position to win their group and reach the ICC final Aug. 4 in Miami.