The San Nicola’s support was not enough as Italy lost 3-1 to France in a friendly played in an open manner. Italy were able to get back into the game thanks to a goal from Pellé after Martial’s opener but they were then forced into submission by the EURO 2016 runners-up who were clinical in front of goal and directed by an in-form Paul Pogba. The Azzurri lost for the first time in Bari and they weren’t able to end the curse which has seen Italy unable to beat France at home for 54 years. Gian Piero Ventura cannot therefore celebrate his debut as coach.
Donnarumma, Rugani and Belotti also made their first senior appearances which was evidence of the coach’s desire to put faith in youth.
With FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino present to see the first experiments with the Video Assistant Referees system, Italy and France brought energy to an exciting match with good work in attack and the odd defensive error. There was also cause for the video technology to come into play for the benefit of the Dutch referee Kuipers with a handball shout in the French area in the 33rd minute with the official receiving confirmation that it wasn’t a penalty.
As had already been announced, Ventura went for a 3-5-2 formation in his first match as he built on Antonio Conte’s system at EURO 2016. Buffon was in net behind Barzagli, Chiellini and Astori. Parolo, De Rossi and Bonaventura were in the middle with Candreva and De Sciglio on the flanks. Up top was the duo of Eder and Pellé. There were eight starters from the European Championship opener (nine with De Sciglio who came on against Belgium) before injuries removed De Rossi and Candreva from the fold in France. It was proof of what the new coach had said when he spoke of picking up from where the side left off. After a minute’s silence and words from Buffon for the people affected by the recent earthquake, Italy immediately showed a desire to impose their own style of play. The first chance fell to Pellé in the second minute as he fired a Candreva corner wide on the volley while turning. The Azzurri showed spirit with De Rossi dictating the play from in front of the defence while attempting to play in De Sciglio and Candreva. France then went ahead through Martial who was set up by Pogba following an error from Chiellini and he beat Buffon for his first international goal. It took just four minutes for Italy to level via Pellé who made the most of Eder’s work down the right to beat Mandanda with a powerful left-foot strike. It was the eighth Italy goal for the forward who moved to Chinese side Shandong Luneng over the summer after an excellent European Championship which unfortunately ended with a mistake from the spot against Germany. The score-line changed quickly once more with Giroud restoring France’s lead as he capitalised on a loss of concentration at the back to volley home. The rhythm dropped somewhat with Italy struggling to find space between France’s two disciplined lines who waited before looking to launch counterattacks via Pogba and the pace of Griezmann and Martial.
Montolivo replaced De Rossi at the break while Rugani and Donnarumma both came on for their debuts with the latter becoming Italy’s youngest-ever goalkeeper. Florenzi entered the pitch in the 59th minute with De Sciglio making way and Montolivo tested Mandanda from range a minute later. Italy got up the pitch and kept the ball as they looked to equalise with Ventura also bringing on Verratti and Andrea Belotti was given 15 minutes to become the evening’s third debutant. After a header by Pellé from a Candreva cross made an important intervention on a square ball but he was unable to keep Kurzawa out in the 81st minute who surprised him at the near post. Italy will be back in action against Israel on Monday with that match counting in qualification for the 2018 World Cup. Three points are to play for and the Azzurri will go there eager to start on the road to Russia in the best way.
Squad list and official numbers
Goalkeepers: 1 Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), 12 Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), 13 Federico Marchetti (Lazio);
Defenders: 14 Luca Antonelli (Milan), 4 Davide Astori (Fiorentina), 15 Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), 19 Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), 3 Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), 2 Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), 5 Angelo Obinze Ogbonna (West Ham), 25 Daniele Rugani (Juventus);
Midfieldes: 21 Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), 7 Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), 6 Antonio Candreva (Inter), 16 Daniele De Rossi (Roma), 24 Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), 18 Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), 8 Marco Parolo (Lazio), 10 Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain);
Forwards: 20 Andrea Belotti (Torino), 17 Eder Citadin Martins (Inter), 22 Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli), 11 Ciro Immobile (Lazio), 23 Leonardo Pavoletti (Genoa), 9 Graziano Pellè (Shandong Luneng).
Staff – Head Coach: Gian Piero Ventura; Assistant Coaches: Salvatore Sullo, Paolo Vanoli and Gianluca Spinelli; Secretary: Mauro Vladovich; Fitness coaches: Alessandro Innocenti and Giovanni Brignardello; Team Doctors: Enrico Castellacci and Carmine Costabile; Physiotherapists/Masseurs: Fabrizio Scalzi, Emanuele Randelli, Alfonso Casano and Pasquale Raia.
Italy’s schedule for the matches against France and Israel in September:
Friday 2nd September
17:30 Training at the Stadio San Nicola (first 20’ open to press)
Saturday 3rd September
10:30 Training at the Stadio San Nicola (first 20’ open to press)
followed by meeting with the press
17:00 Training at the Stadio San Nicola (closed)
Sunday 4th September
10:00 Training at the Stadio San Nicola (closed)
15:15 Chartered flight from Bari to Tel Aviv departs
19:05 (18:05 CEST) Chartered flight arrives in Tel Aviv and squad transfer by bus to Haifa (1h 20mins)
20:45 (19:45 CEST) Pitch inspection at the S. Hofer Stadium and press conference with head coach and one player
Followed by transfer to hotel
Monday 5th September
21:45 (20:45 CEST) 2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFYING MATCH: ISRAEL vs. ITALY
Followed by meeting with the press and transfer to hotel
Tuesday 6th September
12:30 (11:30 CEST) Chartered flight leaves Tel Aviv for Milan Malpensa via Rome Fiumincino