Mauro Icardi scored the decisive penalty as Inter beat European Champions Real Madrid 3-2 on penalties in San Francisco in their first game of the Guinness International Champions Cup.
Forget the earlier warm-up games in Europe, this was the beginning of the real preseason for Walter Mazzarri’s side. This was a chance for the Nerazzurri to see where they stood against one of the elite teams in world football.
It’s one match, one win, but it was a good start to the club’s North American tour and here were five thoughts from Saturday’s match.
It is only a friendly but there were a lot of positives for Mazzarri to take from Saturday’s performance. The back three of Nemanja Vidic, Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia played well and physically imposed themselves on the Real Madrid strikers.
Yann M’Vila made his Inter debut in the second half and almost marked it with a spectacular goal, only to see his long-range effort tipped over.
This was not a park the bus performance by the Nerazzurri either. Inter created the best chances of the game in both halves and with a bit of luck could have the match in regulation.
Inter’s two marque summer signings have been Vidic and M’Vila and while both played well on Saturday, I thought that Vidic was outstanding.
The Serbian defender was everything that Inter hoped he would be. He was physically imposing, solid in defence and showed that he still has the pace to be a top center half in Serie A. Not only did he win the penalty that Icardi scored from, but he showed great leadership in stepping up to take the first penalty in the shootout.
Last season I thought that Inter were not as strong mentally as they needed to be. When they fell behind, the heads seemed to drop and they rarely seemed to come from behind to win.
With the departure of Zanetti, Cambiasso, Samuel and Milto I have been concerned about the leadership in the dressing room and how Inter would handle adversity this season.
It is only one game, but the Nerazzurri showed a lot of mental toughness in beating Real. Despite falling behind early to a brilliant Gareth Bale goal, they battled back to tie things up in the 68th minute when Ruben Sobrino fouled Vidic in the box, and Mauro Icardi scored from the resulting penalty kick.
Then in penalty shootout, after quickly taking a 1-0 lead, the Beneamata fell behind 2-1 and looked like they were heading to a shootout defeat. But they kept their nerve and Juan Pablo Carrizo made a couple of big saves as Inter battled back to win 3-2.
Last season I thought teams took advantage of the Nerazzurri physically. Mazzarri obviously felt the same way as the additions of Vidic and M’Vila gives Inter a steel through the middle of the pitch that they have not had in several years.
This was only a friendly but it was clear that this a much more physically imposing side than last year. Even Ranocchia, not known as a physical defender, was seen throwing his weight around Saturday.
With teams no longer able to physically push Inter around, more room will open up for the creative players like Hernanes and Kovacic to weave their magic, which should result in more chances, goals and points this season.
The Maturity Of Mauro Icardi
In Icardi’s first season in an Inter shirt he made as many headlines for his off the pitch antics as he did for the nine goals he scored.
The young striker has been linked with a big money move to either Atletico Madrid or Monaco this summer and I was curious to see if he was ready to build on his performance from last season or whether the transfer speculation had turned his head.
Fortunately it looks Icardi has decided to not only build on last season’s performance but become one of the leaders in the tram. Not only did Icardi score the penalty to tie the game in regulation but he also stepped up and took the fifth and deciding penalty that won the match.
Next up for Inter is a match on Tuesday against Manchester United in Landover, Maryland. United have been impressive in their two preseason games under new boss Louis Van Gaal, but Inter will not be overawed, especially after beating the European champions. A win will put Walter Mazzarri’s side in pole position to win their group and reach the ICC final in Miami on August 4.