Italy manager Giampiero Ventura had only three days with his team to prepare for his first official match at the Azzurri bench against star-studded Euro 2016 finalists France.
The experienced manager has already announced that he will be switching to 4-4-3 in the future, but for this occasion he decided to make no changes to Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 system in order to avoid disrupting the team balance. Ventura’s decision had little impact on the result as Italy suffered a 3-1 defeat to Didier Deschamps’ men in the mammoth friendly at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari.
Ventura went for Davide Astori who stepped in for Leonardo Bonucci as Italy defender had to pull back from the squad due to personal reasons, while Danielle De Rossi, Marco Parolo and Mattia De Sciglio all linked up in the midfield.
Ventura’s decision to stick with Graziano Pelle turned out to be a wise one as Shandong Lueng striker scored the sole goal for Italy after linking quite well with Eder upfront. Many believed that former Southampton forward’s international career after his move to China would be over, but he sent a clear message to all of his critics on Thursday night.
Didier Deschamps awarded Djibril Sidibe with his Les Bleus debut but made little changes to his Euro 2016 squad starting with Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi in the centre of the pitch. France boss fielded an attack oriented set up with Anthony Martial, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud leading the line in attack.
Tottenham captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was ruled out through injury and was today replaced by Steve Mandanda, who did a fairly good job.
The match between Italy and France started with hosts holding possession and controlling the ball well in the centre of the park, but a single defensive error from Andrea Barzagli proved to be costly early in the game for the Italian national team.
Juventus defender expected his club team-mate Giorgio Chiellini to prevent a pass through and failed to push the backline forward allowing Anthony Martial to avoid an offside position for a precise finish after going one-on-one with Gianluigi Bufon.
The Azzurri fought hard to get back in the game and their perseverance paid off less than five minutes after the 17th-minute France goal.
Italy forward Eder burst past Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante down the right hand side of the pitch and passed the ball to Graziano Pelle who showed great composure to drill the ball low in the near bottom corner from inside the box.
Action-packed first half saw another change to the score line only seven minutes later when France got back on top once again, through Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. Giorgo Chiellini was the one to blame for the second goal by France as he allowed plenty of room to the Arsenal man for the well-taken volley after a corner kick.
Italy attempted to get back in the game straight away with Candreva getting in fine opportunity to score for Azzurri, but the eventful 45 minutes ended with France leading 2-1.
The second part of the game was marked by the introduction of AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma who became the youngest ever Italian goalkeeper ever and the youngest Azzurri player since 1911.
He will remember his debut for an error leading to third goal courtesy of PSG wide man Laywin Kurzawa, who spotted an opening as Donnarumma leaned forward in anticipation of a cross to smash the ball at the near post from a tight angle.
Young goalkeeper still managed to grab a few important saves in his debut appearance, smothering Gignac’s attempt and Pogba’s long-range free kick respectively.
Italy offered little in return with Graziano Pelle coming close to scoring his fifth goal for Italy and second in the game after smashing Candreva’s crow over the bar.
France ultimately grabbed a huge morale boosting win ahead of the beginning of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, while Giampiero Ventura needs to roll up his sleeves and work hard to get his stamp on the Italy squad as quickly as possible.
- Italy ended game with 60% possession to France’s 40%
- The hosts had the total of 12 goal attempts, only 2 on target
- 50% of France’s 10 shots were on goal, with 3 ending in Buffon’s net
- Man United world-record signing Paul Pogba grabbed 2 assists in the game
- It was a fairly clean game with only 2 yellow cards, one on each side of the pitch
ITALY: Buffon 6.5 (Donarumma 6) – Barzagli 6 (Rugani 6), Astori 6.5, Chiellini 6 – Candreva 7, Parolo 6.5, De Rossi 6 (Montolivo 6), Bonaventura 6 (Verratti 6.5), De Sciglio 6 (Florenzi 6) – Pelle 7.5, Eder 7 (Belotti 6)
Unused subs: Antonelly, Bernardeschi, Gabbiadini, Immobile, Marchetti, Ogbonna, Pavoletti.
FRANCE: Mandanda 6.5 – Sidibe 7, Varane 7, Koscielny 6.5 (Umtiti 6), Kurzawa 7.5 (Digne 6)– Pogba 7, Kante 6.5, Matuidi 6.5 (Sissoko 6) – Griezmann 7 (Dembele 6.5), Giroud 7.5 (Gignac 6), Martial 7.5 (Payet 6.5)
Unused subs: Areola, Corchia, Costil, Gameiro, Kondogbia, Rami.
REFEREE: Bjorn Kuipers