Vincenzo Grifo bagged his first senior Italy goals, with Federico Bernardeschi and Riccardo Orsolini also on target, as Italy beat Estonia 4-0 in a friendly and extended their unbeaten run to 20 games.
This international friendly was played in Florence with an experimental team, including Alessandro Bastoni making his senior Italy debut alongside Inter teammate Danilo D’Ambrosio, both unaccustomed to being centre-backs in a 4-3-3 formation. Roberto Soriano of Bologna got his first cap since 2015, but there were even changes on the bench, because Roberto Mancini was self-isolating at home after his COVID-19 diagnosis, so assistant manager Alberico ‘Chicco’ Evani stepped in.
The match was organised largely to help Italy stay in the top FIFA ranking group ahead of next month’s 2022 World Cup qualifying draw.
Italy’s early domination found a breakthrough after 14 minutes with a stunning strike from Vincenzo Grifo, as the Freiburg winger unleashed a right-foot curler from 25 metres that bent around the goalkeeper and in off the far post. It was his first senior goal in the Italy jersey on his fourth cap.
Federico Bernardeschi’s cross only grazed the head of Kevin Lasagna, taking it away from Roberto Gagliardini in a better position, but the Juventus man got the goal himself soon after, cutting inside from the right to drill in left-footed from the edge of the box into the near bottom corner through Karol Mets’ legs. He hadn’t scored for Italy in over a year, since October 2019 against Liechtenstein.
Moments later, Estonia almost scored by accident, as a Frank Liivak cross took a wicked deflection to clip the outside of the upright.
Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina made his senior Italy debut in the second half, as Liivak nutmegged Danilo D’Ambrosio to sting Salvatore Sirigu’s gloves at the near post.
Emerson fired well wide after a smart give-and-go with Grifo, while the Freiburg talent saw another curler deflect just wide of the far top corner.
Luca Pellegrini and Pietro Pellegri were given their senior Italy debuts, and Roberto Gagliardini rode a couple of tackles until he fell at the third by Georgi Tunjov for a penalty. Grifo converted with power and precision into the near top corner, completing his brace.
Stephan El Shaarawy came off the bench and almost scored with his first touch, controlling a Gagliardini cross and forcing a save from point-blank range.
Another substitute also made a big impact, as Riccardo Orsolini stung the goalkeeper’s gloves and was then brought down on the rebound for another penalty. The Bologna winger took it himself and converted, meaning he has scored in each of his two senior Italy appearances.
Italy 4-0 Estonia
Grifo 14, pen 75 (I), Bernardeschi 27 (I), Orsolini pen 86 (I)
Italy: Sirigu; Di Lorenzo, D’Ambrosio (Calabria 80), Bastoni, Emerson (Luca Pellegrini 72); Gagliardini, Tonali (Pessina 46), Soriano; Bernardeschi (Orsolini 72), Lasagna (Pellegri 72), Grifo (El Shaarawy 80)
Estonia: Meerits, Teniste (Lilander 46), Baranov, Mets, Pikk (Jarvelaid 79); Ainsalu (Tunjov 46), Soomets; Liivak, Miller (Sorga 58); Marin (Tur 46); Sappinen (Lepik 58)
Ref: Obrenovic (SVN)