Italy had to wait until the 94th minute to make their dominance count over the USA, as Matteo Politano scored the last-gasp winner.
The Azzurri were out of the Nations League after a 0-0 draw with Portugal, which saw them absolutely dominate the game, but fail to convert any of their chances. Several star names were sent home ahead of this friendly in the Belgian city of Genk, so Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi was given his debut and Kevin Lasagna his first senior Italy start. The average age of the US starting XI was 22 years and 71 days in a 3-5-2 formation.
Federico Chiesa was now the only player to have featured in all Roberto Mancini’s Italy matches and he had two early chances, one denied by the on-rushing goalkeeper after a long Leonardo Bonucci ball, the other drilled wide from distance.
Domenico Berardi nodded off target, then was sent clear on goal by his Sassuolo teammate Sensi only for Cameron Carter-Vickers to make a decisive last-ditch tackle.
Bonucci should’ve scored on a Sensi free kick, but after springing the offside trap, he prodded it straight at Ethan Horvath from point-blank range.
Berardi’s marvellous left-foot curler from the edge of the box was fingertipped over the bar by Horvath. The goalkeeper then got down to palm a Marco Verratti free kick away, as the ricochet somehow took it away from goal.
Hoffenheim winger Vincenzo Grifo made his Italy debut in the second half, having been born in Germany to Italian parents. He almost provided an assist within five minutes, but Verratti’s header was off target.
Bonucci’s long ball sent Lasagna running only for the Udinese striker to fire straight at on-rushing Horvath.
Juventus teenager Moise Kean made his senior Italy debut, the first to represent the Azzurri born in the 21st Century.
The USA almost scored with their first chance on 65 minutes, as a free kick found Zimmerman at the back post, Salvatore Sigiru slapping away the header with his trailing hand.
Cannon was fortunate not to see a second yellow card for his lunge on Emerson and Lasagna sprung the offside trap only to hit it straight at Horvath one-on-one.
Kean tried to set up Grifo on the counter, but it flashed across the face of goal, while Mattia De Sciglio blasted over and Lasagna’s volley was charged down. Kean did well to hold off his marker and set up Lasagna, but the Udinese man turned over from 12 yards.
With practically the last kick of the game, Italy finally broke through. It was a well-worked team move with Politano starting and finishing it from Verratti’s assist, bursting through the middle to delicately place the angled drive into the far bottom corner.
Italy 1-0 USA
Politano 94 (I)
Italy: Sirigu; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Acerbi, Emerson; Barella (Gagliardini 76), Sensi, Verratti; Chiesa (Grifo 46), Lasagna (Politano 87), Berardi (Kean 62)
USA: Horvath; Carter-Vickers, Zimmerman, Long; Cannon (Villafana 75), Delgado (Trapp 62), Adams, Acosta (Lletget 83), Moore; Pulisic (Gall 83), Sargent (Wood 62)
Ref: Cakir (TUR)