Gianluigi Buffon expects Belgium to provide Italy with a stern test in Brussels as Antonio Conte’s side gear up for Euro 2016.
After a brief stutter in the middle of their qualifying campaign, Italy finished Group H strongly to seal top spot by four points from Croatia.
Four successive wins wrapped up the group and booked their place in France next year.
Buffon is confident the current crop of Italian players can go far, but says Marc Wilmots’ side, who won Group B, will be a good marker for what is to come in seven months’ time.
“Belgium are a side we respect,” said the Juventus goalkeeper. “They are full of talent and almost all of them youngsters who have been playing together for many years thanks to the plans worked out a long time ago.
“They certainly have the potential to be a candidate for the trophy at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.”
He added: “As for tomorrow’s match, they are on home turf and will do everything possible to make life difficult for us, but it’s important for Italy too and we want to do well in this important test.
“I don’t know if the squad is more united or not than in the past. I will say that when there is a common goal and hard work to perfect movements, this creates a better synchronicity.
“You can have many good lads in a group, but if they don’t know where to go then they can get lost and lose energy on the journey. If someone tells them where to go, obviously it’s simpler.”