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Jul 29, 2014

Inter look good despite penalty loss

ESPN FC's Diego Arrioja recaps Manchester United's penalty shootout victory over Inter Milan after a scoreless draw in the International Champions Cup.

Three days after beating European champions Real Madrid on penalties, Internazionale tasted defeat in a penalty shootout as they lost 5-3 to Manchester United in the International Champions Cup after drawing 0-0 in regulation time.

Inter's Marco Andreolli was the only player to miss his penalty, when his shot bounced back of the crossbar.

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Despite the loss, there is still a lot for Walter Mazzarri and Nerazzurri fans to take from his team's performance on Tuesday night.

Strong defence

While other Italian sides have been leaking goals in the International Champions Cup, Inter have conceded only one goal from open play in 180 minutes, and that was a wonder strike from Gareth Bale.

Against a close-to-full-strength Manchester United side, an undermanned Inter side did a great job keeping their shape and keeping the United attackers in front of them. The Inter goalkeepers (Samir Handanovic and Juan Pablo Carrizo) had to make only one difficult save between them, and that came in the first half when Handanovic made a great save from a Phil Jones header off a corner.

Other than that chance, Inter never let the Premier League side get behind them as Andrea Ranocchia, Nemanja Vidic and Juan Jesus turned in another strong performance.

Last seasons Inter's defence was decent, but the 39 goals conceded were 16 more than Juventus allowed. With a season of experience playing in Mazzarri's three-man backline, plus the addition of Vidic, Inter look so much stronger defensively than they did last year.

It is easy to get carried away with preseason performances, but if the Nerazzurri can carry this defensive play over into the regular season, that might well be the difference between them finishing third in one of the Champions League places, or fourth -- and therefore back in the Europa League.

Nemanja Vidic has added some steel to the Internazionale defence.

Dodo poor

It was not all rosy against United, though, as Dodo showed that he has not yet grasped how to play as a wingback in Mazzarri's system. In the first half, all the danger from the English side came down the Inter left, as Dodo did not seem to know whether he should attack or defend, and ended up doing neither.

Lack of creativity In midfield

One of the strange aspects of this match was that both sides were playing the same 3-5-2 system, the only difference being that the English side played a much higher line than the Nerazzurri.

This took away a lot of space in midfield as United dared Inter to beat them with a long diagonal ball over the top. Unfortunately, none of the starting central midfielder trio -- Jonathan, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Rene Krhin -- possessed the skill to do just that.

What Inter needed on Tuesday was a creative player like Hernanes, Ricky Alvarez or Mateo Kovacic to unlock the United back line by running at the defense and linking up with the strikers. It was not a coincidence that the Nerazzurri looked their most threatening offensively when Fredy Guarin came on for the last 10 minutes and brought some creativity to the attack.

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The inability of Inter to create anything offensively until Guarin made his preseason debut has to worry Mazzarri as Guarin in all likelihood will not be in an Internazionale shirt when the season begins.

When Inter begins their 2014-15 Serie A campaign at Torino on Aug. 31, expect that the starting midfield trio will be Hernanes, Yann M'Vila and Kovacic. All three are terrific players, but as we saw in Washington on Tuesday night, if one of them gets injured, Mazzarri does not appear to have someone who can step in and play a similar role.

This means that either Guarin or Ricky Alvarez will be sold, but not both, as Inter cannot risk one of their playmakers being out injured for a long period of time.

Next match

Inter's final game of its US tour is on Saturday against Serie A rivals AS Roma.

Forget Real Madrid and Manchester United; Saturday's match against Roma in Philadelphia is the most important match of their preseason tour of the USA. Roma is a Champions League and Serie A title rival, and this is a chance for Inter to lay down a marker ahead of the upcoming season.