Italy’s fringe players did their best to impress manager Cesare Prandelli on Friday as minnows San Marino were soundly beaten 4-0 in a friendly in Bologna ahead of next week’s World Cup Group B qualifier in the Czech Republic.
A first international goal for Andrea Poli after 28 minutes put Italy on their way before a tap-in by Alberto Gilardino on 34 made it 2-0.
A magnificent Andrea Pirlo free-kick on 50 minutes and another close-range effort from Alberto Aquilani 11 minutes from time sealed the win.
Italy travel to face the third-placed Czechs knowing that a win would put them on 16 points, six points clear of Bulgaria in second spot, and make them favorites to top the group and qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
It was Italy’s first friendly victory in more than 18 months, ending a run of seven straight non-competitive defeats.
After an opening period when they had two goals ruled offside, Poli finished well after racing through from midfield.
Gilardino doubled the lead after following up an Aquilani shot.
Prandelli made four substitutions at halftime and brought on the troubled Mario Balotelli, who on Friday had to deny allegations of drug dealing.
Pirlo put the result beyond doubt when he curled home a trademark free-kick. Aquilani completed the win, tapping home the fourth goal after San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini fumbled a Pirlo kick right to his feet.