Ranked 112th by FIFA and recently crushed 5-1 by Belgium, Luxembourg still managed a shock draw against Italy to initiate a slight panic before the World Cup. Friendlies, the players insist, rarely inspire dominant performances and that is perhaps true. "Italy has accustomed us to lacklustre performances before momentous triumphs," wrote Corriere dello Sport.
The Azzurri only seem to perform when they absolutely must. With the England challenge coming up, one hopes the Azzurri can shed their confused state and play with fluidity once the World Cup commences.
It all started well, though, with Claudio Marchisio earning the plaudits. Picking out Mario Balotelli with a long ball, the Milan forward then crossed and Marchisio, who made yet another perfectly timed run into the box, headed in the opening goal in the eighth minute. In the lead so quickly, one would be forgiven for thinking Luxembourg were in for another battering by the Italians who so needed a win to improve their confidence.
However, that measly goal was all they could muster. The strike was followed by a show of clinical inefficiency. The woodwork rescued the opposition but in all seriousness, one expects more against the likes of Luxembourg if only to raise confidence. Too many opportunities were wasted and in the big matches, this will certainly come back to haunt them.
Indeed it must be said, Balotelli did well to assist Marchisio and pulled off great moves to create opportunities for himself but he must offer guarantees, especially in the matches where a win is not only expected but demanded. That includes reading the opponent and his own teammates in a better manner, knowing when to drop deep to bring others in and when to attack the defenders.
Italy were facing a side that offers little by way of attacking threat. Thus the Azzurri needed to flex their creative muscles and demonstrate mobility, fluency and technical skill. Instead, it all seemed a little unbalanced at times. Antonio Candreva, inaccurate more times than one cares to consistently note, was not the right man for the job.
When Antonio Cassano came on, the unpredictability he brings -- not to mention his fine physical form -- was a breath of fresh air, providing Luxembourg with a real challenge. Even Balotelli seemed to benefit from his teammate's impact.
Cesare Prandelli hoped the forward line would work for one another, where Balotelli would help bring in those such as Marchisio and Candreva who make timely runs forwards while the midfielders provided him with the service he needed.
However on this occasion Balotelli needed to be a more threatening and physically terrifying number nine. Italy needed a striker that acted like a striker otherwise it's a case of "too many cooks". It all looked a little flat.
Yet despite the problems at the very top, this match was a chance for Prandelli to experiment. How well did a team bursting with creativity and tactical intelligence operate? Well even if the opposition hardly provided the challenge required it was important to see how Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo played with one another. Both exposing the spaces, both helping to create play in different areas of the pitch, the worry was that they might get in each other's way, standing alongside one another fighting for possession.
Yet their movement and the manner they alternated ensured both contributed to the attack. The understanding is there and as long as they continue to offer the other freedom of movement, they will be allowed to play together, even if it might be deemed defensively risky against better sides.
Italy as a whole must improve. They were a little too static and rigid yet one can see the potential if it all comes together. They still have a lot of work to do and that includes improving the defence. Once again the marking from corners was woeful, while that back line lacks mobility. The team suffers when attacked with pace from counter-attacks and these issues must be studied before they face their next challenge.
As far as results go, Italy traditionally suffer in friendly games prior to the World Cup tournaments before going on to impress so fans cannot be too worried. If anything, this may just be a good omen for the superstitious among the team's support.