The Azzurri wore green on Saturday... and won. They wore white in Vaduz on Tuesday night... and won. Italy's flag contains the colours of these two plus red, but the 1968 European champions traditionally play in blue as the house of Savoia that ruled on the peninsula from 1846 to 1946 colour was blue.
However, it does not seem to matter what colour the national team dons when they take to the field under Roberto Mancini as their mindset remains the same, and one would sense that the previous rulers would not mind too much, as long as they honour the shirt.
Under the former Inter and Manchester City boss, this is a team who are well-versed in their tactical set-up and such was evident at the Rheinpark Stadion, where he made 10 changes from the 2-0 victory over Greece. The only one who kept his place was Marco Verratti as Mancio handed him the captain’s armband, in an almost-symbolic gesture to the Paris Saint-Germain man, whose maturity has been questioned at times.
The midfield dynamo ran the midfield as the record set by the legendary Vittorio Pozzo 80 years ago of nine consecutive wins was matched by these modern gladiators.
The Azzurri - or should I say Bianchi - scored early through a well-worked goal that was finished off by Federico Bernadeschi, but the floodgates did not open for them. On a rainy night in the capital, which became a sovereign member state of the Roman Empire on January 23, 1719, the Liechtenstein players battened down the hatches and tried to defend their goal under siege from the visitors.
Despite that, goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu still had moments when he was forced to show his recent brilliant form with Torino, which earned him his return to the national team. He seemed to be in an almost one-on-one battle with striker Dennis Salanovic, denying the FC Thun man on three occasions in the first hour, the last of which was a cat-like sprawl from a wonderful curling effort inside the penalty area.
His performance showed that going forward, should Gigio Donnarumma need a rest, get injured or - for whatever reason - experiences a drop in form, Italy have a more-than-capable deputy on hand. Not to mention a certain Alex Meret...
Under Mancini, arguably the strongest part of the team has been the midfield, where Verratti and fellow technicians Jorginho and Nicolo Barella move in unison like an orchestra at the opera at the Teatro La Scala in Milan. Without the duo, however, and with him having the baton to direct their notes, the team did not skip a beat - Roma duo Bryan Cristante and Nicolo Zaniolo building chemistry as the match progressed.
There has been much debate of exactly what is the best position on the field for Zaniolo to fulfil his undoubted potential, and we may have seen a glimpse of that last night. Of course, what his club manager Paulo Fonseca decides to do at Trigoria is another matter entirely.
Despite the continued possession statistics being heavily in favour of La Nazionale, like Pep Guardiola’s Barca side of 2011, it wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that they paid off. However, it did pay off and in droves.
Andrea Belotti replaced Ciro Immobile as the main striker in the favoured 4-3-3 formation for this modern Mancini make-up, and the Torino hitman emulated his teammate Sirigu at the back with a double. Both goals were headers, the latter of which was assisted by debutant Giovanni Di Lorenzo. The Napoli defender grabbed his chance with both hands and, with both full-back positions still very much up for grabs, the Tuscan’s name is in the hat for next summer.
In between, there were goals from players who have Roma and Milan connections.
Stephan El Shaarawy picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box from an attacking corner and floated in a lovely ball for Alessio Romagnoli, who was freely able to head home for his first international goal. It was then the turn of El Shaarawy, who is currently enjoying the riches of the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Shenhua, to get his name on the scoresheet. Cristante picked out his ex-teammate with a slide-rule pass that Francesco Totti would have been proud, and ‘the Little Pharaoh’ powered the ball with the top of his right foot past a hapless Benjamin Buchel in goal.
People may say, “it’s only Liechtenstein” or “their group was easy.” However, two years removed from failure to qualify for the World Cup, Italy fans have learned a hard lesson - never take anything for granted.
This is a young band of players who have worked superbly to make their national team a source of pride for the ‘tifosi’ again, led by a CT who wants “the players to bring back the joy of the Azzurri” again. Both pride and joy have been regained, and the build-up to this summer’s European extravaganza is picking up pace.
Bigger tests await in 2020 for this squad, but whether they play in blue, green, white or throw us all for a loop and go with red, this version of Italy’s national team has honoured the shirt that they so proudly wear.