International Friendlies: France vs Italy, 3 key battles that decided the game
Roberto Mancini's second game in charge of the Azzurri did not turn out to be as happy as his first, as France cruised to a 3-1 win over Italy at the Allianz Riviera in front of a packed home crowd.
Goals from Samuel Umtiti, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele were more than enough to give France a much-needed confidence booster ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
With no World Cup to play for, Mancini put in a highly experimental squad and the lack of chemistry between the players was evident. To his credit, Didier Deschamps also tried his hand at a few newer players, with much more success to show for it.
As always, there were a few key battles that had a say in deciding the final outcome of the game. Here are 3 such battles:
#1 Samuel Umtiti vs Mario Balotelli
Recalled to the national team after not being able to take part in the world cup qualifiers under Ventura, Balotelli scored on his come back in the previous game against Saudi Arabia. This game, however, wasn't as successful.
Throughout his career, not many have been able to figure out what goes through Balotelli's head, including Super Mario himself. There are days when he looks like he could be the absolute best player in the world, and then there are days when it looks like he hasn't seen the inside of a football pitch.
This match was both of them rolled into one. Balotelli was instrumental in creating Italy's goal, first drawing the foul and then hitting the ball hard at Lloris before Bonucci's tap-in. But he missed a free header from 6 or 7 yards out that would have made the match completely different.
Also visible was his selfish streak, as he often chose to take a shot instead of the easy ball to a teammate nearby.
Umtiti opened the scoring for France by pouncing on a rebound, but his defensive duties on the night were found to be a little lacking. Of course, he did not have his usual partner in Varane but it is a sign of warning to the French coach.
Both teams were all over the pitch in terms of defending, Italy more so than France, but seeing as how France actually want to win the WC, it will be something they have to get better at.