With two losses and precious little of the panache expected of Italy at a world finals, the European giants managed to put together some moments of fine football in Kerkrade. Their first match away from Tilburg's Willem II Stadium saw the Azzurri shake off the nerves and lack of chemistry that plagued their first pair of matches, running out comfy 4-1 winners to eliminate Canada in Kerkrade and keep their own hopes of a spot in the second round alive.
"We've had to experiment with our line-ups because we had very little time to prepare," said breathless Italy coach Paolo Berrettini after the match. "If we played the way we played today in our last match against Syria we would have no worries…"
Lacking the class of players like Josh Simpson and Iain Hume - who helped see them a hair's breadth from the semi-finals in the last instalment if the FIFA World Youth Championship - the courageous Canucks were run ragged in the opening period.
The youthful Italians, virile and lean, hit out with the keener verve in the opening minutes, pinning the bustling North Americans back with some suddenly smashing ball possession.
After a series of half chances from Italy, the Canadians managed to remind them of their presence when David Edgar's free kick sizzled just past the top corner to the relief of captain and keeper Emiliano Viviano in minute 10.
From there on out though, it was all Italy.
Daniele Galloppa of Triestina smacked just wide on the quarter-hour mark and one minute later Marino Defendi of Atalanta had Josh Wagenaar - veteran of Canada's UAE 2003 squad - more than a bit worried with a dazzling strike from 18 yards. Chances were coming thick and fast for the Azzurri, but they looked to be having trouble keeping their shots on target.
They made their first one on frame count, however, as galloping Gallopa's inch-perfect cross from the left was met in a blare by the towering Graziano Pelle, who nodded home at the near post to open the scoring (1:0, 23').
After a glancing header from Ryan Gyaki nearly caught the Italians out, a flurry of attack at the other end had the Canucks desperately hoping for the whistle and thankful only to be a goal down at the interval in the sapping mid-day heat.
Their wasn't much relief in the second half as it took Italy only seconds to increase their lead, again through the cracking combination play of Pelle and Galloppa. The tall striker, this time turning provider, nodded down at the far post. Galloppa set himself well and slammed an overhead kick past Wagenar (2:0, 48').
But with their famous spirit intact, the Canadians responded just a minute later with a well-placed free kick from Marcel De Jong - his familiar surname drawing applause from the Dutch crowd - to the top corner (2:1, 49').
Italy weren't done yet, however. And after twice hitting the crossbar, Pelle struck again. Forcing a corner with a fine strike - he was there to get on the end of it with a thunderous header from close range (3:1, 68').
A delicate chip from the ever-lively Will Johnson splattered off the crossbar at the other end with just three minutes to go, finally signalling the end of Canada's valiant fight.
Italy - knowing full-well they would need goals to keep their hopes of a spot in the second round alive - got a crucial fourth from substitute Raffaele De Martino. His foraging run and strike sent the Italian bench wild with delight.
Though they will still have a nervous wait ahead, coach Berrettini - who was in tears at the final whistle - fired a late warning. "If we go through, you will see the real Italy from now on."
Canadian coach and FIFA World Cup 1986 veteran Dale Mitchell was predictably gracious in defeat. "Italy we're worthy winners," he said. "We gave them too much of the ball."