Roberto Mancini knows Italy face an "uphill climb" to qualify for Euro 2024 after they were beaten 2-1 by England but took heart from their second-half display.
Declan Rice opened the scoring and Harry Kane become England's outright record goalscorer with his 54th strike for his country from the penalty spot just before half-time in Thursday's Group C opener at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Argentina-born Mateo Retegui marked his debut with a goal to get the European champions back in the game and there was further hope for Italy when Luke Shaw was sent off in the 80th minute.
England held on to gain a measure of revenge for a defeat in the Euro 2020 final, securing their first away win over Italy since May 1961.
Gareth Southgate's side ended Italy's run of 40 European Championship qualifying matches without defeat, leaving the holders with work to do in order to return to a major tournament in Germany next year after missing out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Azzurri head coach Mancini said: "We knew it was going to be a difficult game, then we conceded two goals from two set-pieces; we should have been more careful.
"We dominated in the second half and probably deserved a draw. We're disappointed with the result but we still have a long way to go."
He added: "In the second half we managed to press better, higher and I saw a great team again: this gives us hope. England are always dangerous from set-pieces, but we shouldn't have conceded those two goals.
"We still managed to roll up our sleeves and play better. The road is a bit of an uphill climb now, but maybe it will finish more smoothly."
Mancini was encouraged by the impact Retegui made in the second half in Naples after the striker became the first player to open his Italy account while playing for a club based outside of Europe.
"Retegui has yet to get to know his team-mates and our movements as a team," Mancini said of the Tigre forward.
"In the first half, he had difficulties against the English defenders who are very strong physically, but he did better in the second half. He's young and I think he just needs a little time."