We were all waiting for some football action from our favourite team and were finally rewarded yesterday when the Nerazzurri faced German side Stuttgarter Kickers. On paper it shouldn't have been a hard fight, because the German side are a third division squad, but at this point in summer training everything is unpredictable: tired legs, new players, inexperienced youngsters, and experimental tactics are always factors to consider during these types of friendlies. The match was streamed free on YouTube and from what I could tell, it had an average of about 20,000 viewers throughout. Not too shabby for a preseason friendly.
This match probably needs two different reviews: one for the first half and one for the second. Mancini fielded the supposed starters during the first half and then let the young guns/newcomers/bench warmers scamper on as the second half progressed. Shaqiri was one of the few to not step on the field, and of course, this has only fueled the transfer rumours that have surrounded him lately.
Mancini fielded the same formation used in last season's second half with the four-man defense, a diamond midfield, and the Palacio-Icardi couple up top. This squad played an enjoyable half and were very sharp in the goal scoring department. Maurito and El Trenza showed once again how well they get along on the pitch, combining for three goals and some sweet link-up play. Brozovic also contributed to the score sheet tally with an easy finish inside the box, but his ability to track back and help out the defense was equally impressive. And as much as Icardi and Palacio showed their chemistry, Juan Jesus and Ranocchia made the same critical errors that cost this squad so many games last season. The major difference this time was that Handanovic was up to the task and saved us every time the Germans tried to score.
I must praise our midfielders because they each did all they could to involve everyone in the game and to play with a fast pace and a high tempo - Kovacic and Hernanes above everyone else. That type of play allowed Inter to create some fantastic chances off the counter, which made the match more enjoyable.
I really don't know what can be said about the second part of the match. It was boring and Inter played horrible football. The lackluster defense conceded three goals and the attack failed to create true chances to increase the lead. That said, I must remind myself not to read too much into the result, though. Mancini made a lot of changes from the first half squad and most of the players who came in were youngsters or newcomers, plus Santon, Nagatomo, and Andreolli - who were more interested in making individual plays than trying to actually play decent football. We also got the chance to finally see Kondogbia in the Inter uniform, which was exciting even if his play belied the fact that he only had only just joined the squad at camp.
Overall, it was an okay match. We did see that our best players are in good shape already and that Mancini is trying to make them play a fast-paced style, which is and will be enjoyable to watch if executed properly.
I hope we'll have a chance to see Inter's new defenders play soon, because, let's be honest, defense has been this side's main issue since a couple of years. If we have indeed finally found two respectable full-backs the Nerazzurri could reasonably aim for Champions League qualification next year, at the very least.
Inter's second friendly of the Brunico camp will be played this Wednesday against newly-promoted Carpi.