A brace from veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella helped Italy trounce Liechtenstein 6-0 at the Ennio Tardini in Parma on Tuesday night.
The Azzurri's early possession looked rather ominous for the visitors as Roberto Mancini's side probed the compact Liechtenstein defence in search of the game's opening goal. Crucially for the home side, they were able to breach the compact Liechtenstein defence in the 17th minute, as left back Leonardo Spinazzola's sumptuous cross was headed home by Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi for his first ever international goal.
Sensi's goal opened the floodgates for the home side as the industrious Marco Verratti soon doubled Italy's lead. The 26-year-old worked hard to win the ball back just outside the Liechtenstein area before curling a strike into the far corner. 36-year-old striker Fabio Quagliarella then walloped home Italy's third minutes later from the penalty spot for his first Azzurri goal in eight years, following a handball from Nicolas Hasler.
An awful first half to Liechtenstein somehow became even worse as they were reduced to ten men as Daniel Kaufmann was dismissed for a deliberate handball in the box. Quagliarella showed no mercy from the spot as he added Italy's fourth.
Moise Kean grabbed a goal which his performance deserved in the second half, as he headed in from close range as Italy added to their four first half goals in the seventieth minute. 30-year-old debutante Leonardo Pavoletti finished off the scoring by making it six for Mancini's men, tapping in from close range after seeing his header clumsily parried by opposition goalkeeper Benjamin Buechel.
Here is our breakdown of Italy's big win in Parma.
Key Talking Point
For international football's prominent nations, clashes against international minnows can prove to be a winless situation, with victory an expectation and anything less completely unacceptable.
However, Roberto Mancini's team showed that games such as these can prove to be hugely important, especially when in the midst of a rebuild following a previous unsuccessful qualifying campaign.
There was a feel good atmosphere within the Ennio Tardini amongst the players and the fans. The match also provided the squad's fringe players with a stage to put stake to a claim to be part of the Mancini revolution.
It also provided Mancini with the luxurious option of bringing on uncapped players from the bench, helping to increase the size of his pool of players to select from for the next international selection by providing them with experience within the national team.
Starting XI: Sirigu (6), Mancini (7), Bonucci (6), Romagnoli (6), Spinazzola (9), Sensi (8), Jorginho (7), Verratti (8), Politano (7), Quagliarella (9), Kean (8)
Substitutes: Zaniolo (7), Pavoletti (7), Izzo (6)
Star Man - Probably a rather sentimental choice, however Fabio Quagliarella proved that age is just a number during his nation's huge victory against their Group J counterparts. The in-form Sampdoria striker increased his tally for the season to 23, which is a truly unbelievable number for a player at the tail-end of his career, smashing in two penalties and providing an assist in the demolition.
Key Talking Point
The objective for Liechtenstein would have consisted of the rather familiar tactic of defending rigidly and frustrating their vastly superior opponents in the hope of stealing something from the match. If all components of the team performs well then there is always a chance of achieving a result. A dreadful first half display which was compounded by a red card soon changed the plan to one of damaged limitations.
They will leave Italy happy that it was only six.
Starting XI: Buechel (4), Goppel (3), Kaufmann (2), Hofer (3), Wolfinger (4), Kuehne (4), Wieser (4), Polverino (4), Sele (3), Hasler (3), Salanovic (4)
Substitutes: Malin (3), Meier (3), Buchel (3)
Star Man - Benjamin Buechel conceded six goals and did not look particularly convincing in the Liechtenstein goal. He did however save Liechtenstein from further embarrassment on a handful of occasions.
Italy face potentially their toughest match of their European Qualification group as they travel to Greece in their next qualifier in June.
Liechtenstein travel to Armenia for their next qualifier in search for their first points of their Group J campaign.