Netherlands were much improved after the weekend defeat in Bulgaria which led to Danny Blind's sacking - but still lost to Italy, who knew that bit too much.
On nine minutes, Netherlands actually took the lead - albeit in bizarre circumstances. First, Davy Klaassen and Quincy Promes combined nicely outside the box, the former playing the latter in, but the resultant shot still needed to deflect off both Daniele Rugani and Alessio Romagnoli in order to sneak past the debutant, Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Within a minute, though, Italy were level, Wesley Hoedt's clearing header finding Eder, who drilled an excellent finish across Jeroen Zoet and into the far corner.
This gave Italy the fillip they needed to control the remainder of the first half, and on 32 minutes Christian Bonucci scored what proved to be the winner. Rugani flicked on Marco Verratti's corner, and a deflection off Kenny Tete forced Zoet into an superb save, but Bonucci was first to the loose ball and he rammed into the roof of the net from three yards.
The second half was quieter, though the introduction of Andrea Belotti roused Italy before Wesley Sneijder did likewise for Holland; both men came close to scoring, but were thwarted by good goalkeeping and defending. In the event, the final score reflected the balance of play, though for Netherlands, the performance offered hope that they might just rouse themselves to contest World Cup qualification, while Italy restated their credentials as potential winners.
Can Holland improve enough? Holland currently sit two points behind Bulgaria, three behind Sweden and six behind France, but with five games still to play, have scope to overtake at least the two nearest teams. To do that, they must first appoint the right manager and then find the right team. Against Italy, they showed signs of improved attitude and cohesion, with Memphis Depay, Quincy Promes and Davy Klaassen threatening at times. But they still lacked power in midfield and edge in attack; Arjen Robben will help a bit, but the players as a group must find some additional intensity.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Italy too grooved for improved Netherlands