If a Coach is measured by his ability to get his more surprising decisions right, Roberto Mancini is definitely a man on the up. There were those who thought this first mildly testing away tie might trip up his resuscitation of the Azzurri. They will have to wait until at least another game to puncture the feel-good factor he has begun to inflate Italian chests.
Eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Lorenzo Insigne - he responded with a trademark swerving strike. Some winced at the appearance of Emerson Palmieri on the team-sheet - but he was a constant threat down a left flank as enticingly unencumbered as a Sunday morning motorway. Even Andrea Belotti - despite the lack of a goal - was back to his troublesome best, setting up Nicolò Barella. Three out of three for Mancio on that front.
The job was done for him by half-time against a Greek side that looked as limp and lifeless as month-old moussaka. They started submissively and only got more timid as the night went on. You got the feeling they would have happily retired to some taverna to drown their sorrows before an hour had passed. By then, Giorgio Chiellini’s troops already had their mind on Tuesday’s clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This was the kind of dominant, controlled and clinical display that Azzurri fans thought they might never see again. Yes, there were slip-ups late in the game which a better team would punish, and that gives them something to work on. However, even the most churlish would have to admit that the good far outweighed the bad in Athens. At least, I like to kid myself they would.
The quality of Marco Verratti and Jorginho in midfield was delightful at times, with Barella adding cutting edge to their beautiful brushstrokes. The attitude - for most of the match - was impeccable and always enterprising.
The blemish, if there was one, was perhaps to be a little bit too presumptuous late in the game and fail to press home their advantage and sometimes dwell on the ball too much at the back. But, to these eyes anyway, that seemed like a small criticism when you think about where the boys in blue have come from. They were not perfect, for sure, but they were a lot closer to it than we had got used to under Giampiero Ventura.
There were things to work on, no doubt. The attack was a bit lopsided - predominantly down the left and much less down the flank occupied by Alessandro Florenzi and Federico Chiesa. There was the odd overindulgence at the back, which the world’s finer sides would make you pay for. And, perhaps, there was a bit of relaxation after the third goal went in that the very finest teams might not have allowed themselves. It all felt like small fry really, though.
Moaners will always moan, of course, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. It is true that this new Italy hasn’t beaten much yet, but three wins out of three have put them well on the road to Euro 2020, which is a major tonic after the pain of watching a World Cup as spectators.
Those of us with a sunnier disposition, however, are allowed to enjoy the wonderful warmth that a resounding victory provides. No cause to get carried away - for sure - but no need to dwell on the negatives either. Mancini would have liked a fourth goal - wouldn’t we all? - but this was no night to be too downbeat.
There will be time for grumbling, no doubt, so let’s just congratulate the Azzurri on getting everything pretty much right for once.