Stephan El Shaarawy revels in captain’s role for Italy

Stephan El Shaarawy wore the Italy captain's armband for the first time, scoring a brace as an experimental Azzurri side crushed Moldova 6-0 in an international friendly in Florence yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Coach Roberto Mancini fielded Italy's B side as the Italians build towards Euro 2020, having failed to reach the 2018 World Cup Finals.

And ex-Roma player El Shaarawy, now with Shanghai Shenhua, claimed his first double with the national team before going off in the second half after receiving a blow to his right eye which left him with severe swelling.

"It was worth it, it was a special evening," said the 27-year-old, who had looked poised for a move back to Rome before his transfer fell through.

"Scoring the first brace in the national team with the captain's armband is an immense satisfaction... For a month I trained alone, not being able to return to China."

Italy's other goals came via Bryan Cristante, Domenico Berardi, a Veaceslav Posmac own goal and Francesco Caputo - who, at 33, became Italy's second-oldest debutant.

Said Caputo: "To start out with a goal in the blue jersey after a very long journey is as good as it gets." - AFP, REUTERS