The presence of a small crowd was by far the most pleasing aspect of a drab goalless draw that keeps Italy at the top of Nations League Group A1; they remain a point clear of Poland, who lie second above Netherlands thanks to an extra goal scored.
The first half was, for the most part, an even and engaging affair, Italy looking the likelier scorers. Most notably, Federico Chiesa missed a remarkably easy chance at the back post, arriving late to prang wide from five yards, but Poland also came close when Robert Lewandowski seemed certain to finish Bartosz Bereszynski only for Emerson Palmieri to time his saving tackle to perfection.
Both teams did their best in the second half, but a lack of midfield quality meant that neither was able to create very much; Robert Lewandowski, perhaps the best striker in the world, will rarely have made runs to get the ball less, while Andrea Belotti is nowhere near the standard that Italy have enjoyed in the past.
- Project Big Picture: Why Utd and Liverpool deserve criticism over naked power grab
- Government hits out at 'backroom deal' Project Big Picture
As such, it was not the remotest surprise when the game ended goalless, a result with which both managers will be satisfied.
Italy have an excellent recent record, unbeaten in 18 games, but it remains difficult to see them doing very much when things get serious. This is partly because France, Belgium and England have spectacular generations of players either coming through or already through, but mainly because only Marco Verratti is of comparable to quality to the best that those countries have to offer. This is not a usual state of affairs.
As such, Roberto Mancini must hope that his Italy learn how to Italy, pinching a goal at some point and keeping it tight otherwise. Except his defence is nowhere near as good as the greatest Italy defences, making it very hard to see his team as potential tournament winners or finalists.
Things can, though, improve quickly. Nicolo Barella is only 18 and already an excellent player; Nicolo Zaniolo will be fit and ready for the summer; and Sandro Tonali will surely have cemented his place in the XI by then. An Italy side with those three playing well would be a difficult night for anybody.
Poland - Italy (Nations League)
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Emerson Palmieri (Italy) No player really stood out but Emerson was dangerous in attack, solid in defence, and his brilliantly-timed tackle prevented a certain Lewadowski goal.
Poland: Fabianski 6, Bereszynski 6, Walukiewicz 6, Glik 6, Kedziora 6, Moder 5, Krychowiak 5, Jozwiak 5, Klich 5, Szymanski 5, Lewandowski 5. Subs: Grosicki 6, Linetty 6, Karbownik 6.
Italy: Donnarumma 6, Florenzi 6, Bonucci 6, Acerbi 6, Emerson 7, Barella 6, Jorginho 5, Verratti 6, Chiesa 6, Belotti 5, Pellegrini 5. Subs: Lucatelli 6, Kean 6, Caputo 6.
Southgate: Rashford's MBE a 'phenomenal achievement'
Italy are unbeaten in their last 15 competitive games, winning 12 and drawing three. The Azzurri have surpassed this only once, between June 1997 and June 1999.
7’ - Italy suddenly inject some pace, Barella nipping around the outside of Bereszynski to stand up a cross for Belotti, who glances just wide. Italy are coming.
11’ - WHAT A MISS! A lovely flick from Pellegrini allows Belotti to coax a luscious low cross to the back post, where Chiesa is arriving ... but instead of running it home, he prangs it wide! Dearie him!
17’ - Nice from Poland, Klich knocking back to Bereszynski, who lofts over the top for Jozwiak, sprinting into space. In the middle, Lewandowski charges towards where he hopes the cross will go and it does, but Emerson reads it brilliantly, sliding in to lever the ball away.
52’ - Moder dashes down the right and has Lewandowski in the middle screeching for it. But instead he wipes his foot across the ball to send a shot swerving towards the near post which Donnarumma pushes behind. Lewandowski is less then gruntled.
64’ - This is lovely! Chiesa takes a terrible first touch, but just as he's in the process of chastising himself the opportunity arises for him to get back on the ball, rolled in by Florenzi, and this time he quickly digs out a fine cross at which Emerson launches himself, sending a diving header just wide.
89’ - Excellent from Poland, breaking down the right with Karbownik, and when he crosses, Krychowiak turns the ball back adroitly to Linetty, who collects beautifully, taking the ball down and into stride, before lashing a shot into the side-netting.