Scotland manager Gordon Strachan admitted his side were "badly off the pace" with their passing in a one-sided 1-0 defeat by Italy.
Strachan felt the Malta friendly was a harsh lesson both for his players and Scottish football as a whole as Italy outclassed his team.
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Graziano Pelle curled home the only goal from 20 yards but Scotland would have been on the end of a heavier defeat if Emanuele Giaccherini had shown more composure when presented with several clear chances in the first half.
Italy appeared to ease off after Pelle's 57th-minute strike but Scotland only managed one effort at goal - Matt Ritchie's 78th-minute strike whistled wide of the near post from 18 yards.
Strachan said: "You can't be offensive if you can't pass the ball to each other. That is it, whatever system you have.
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"We were badly off the pace with our passing. It's still the biggest secret to the game, whatever any coach tells you about systems. It's about players being able to beat people and pass.
"I keep coming to this conversation every time. It's something I know and I wish somebody would just listen to me."
Strachan clearly felt there were wider lessons to take from the game.
The former Celtic boss added: "It's a learning curve, not only for us, and I hope the whole of Scottish football, everybody at youth level, understands what you need to be a top player.
"We have talked about why we didn't pass the ball as well as we can. I counted about eight or nine passes we have given away, which you would think we'd keep it or do better.
"There might be some factors. Some players have been away, some players rested for a while whereas the Italian lads have been on top of their game right until now.
"That's the problem for us. A lot of our players are in the Championship, not at the top European level. And you are also playing against a Juventus back three and a goalkeeper who are fantastic.
"Yes, we would have liked to have done more but it's partly down to them and partly down to us. We know that. It clears the picture, we understand exactly what you need when you go into the top games.
"You have got to remember a couple of things as well, we probably would have been able to choose from five or six other players.
"We've got a young squad over here and it's been a great learning curve for them to watch it never mind play against it.
"But I've got to say thanks to the lads. They could easily have made an excuse to not be here. They guys that were here did their best.
"But we have got a clear picture of one or two things, which was great for us to see. When we come up against that (3-5-2) system, we know right now how I'm going to deal with it."
It was Italy's first win in five matches and provided a boost ahead of their Euro 2016 group campaign against Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Sweden.
Head coach Antonio Conte said: "My players were really determined and tried their best on what was a difficult pitch to play on.
"I'm proud of the passion my team showed. We have to build on this victory and clean sheet."
Southampton striker Pelle added: "We were not at our best but I'm happy that I scored. We should have created more in the second half."