France beats Italy, tries to forget World Cup

7th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 6, 2006 (AFP) - Wantaway Lyon striker Sidney Govou helped France forget their World Cup final defeat with a brace in an exciting 3-1 defeat of Italy at the Stade de France on Wednesday.

PARIS, Sept 6, 2006 (AFP) - Wantaway Lyon striker Sidney Govou helped France forget their World Cup final defeat with a brace in an exciting 3-1 defeat of Italy at the Stade de France on Wednesday.

France's defeat to Italy this summer left huge wounds and, despite claims to the contrary, it appeared Raymond Domenech's men were desperate to make a special effort in maintaining their perfect start to the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

For Italy, though, under new coach Roberto Donadoni it leaves them with just one point after two matches having drawn 1-1 at home to Lithuania on Saturday.

Donadoni admitted that his players, who will only restart the Italian league championship this weekend, were still looking for form.

"It was difficult out there. France had the home advantage, and maybe we were guilty of lapses in concentration," said Donadoni, who added they remained optimistic despite their points difference.

"We're five points behind France in the standings, but we still have a chance to come back. The qualifiers are not yet over, so we have to stay optimistic."

After only two minutes Govou, who hasn't played a game for the French champions this season, opened the scoring with a beautifully-struck first-timer which looked as if one French player was offside.

Thierry Henry scored France's second goal on the 17th minute, only for Italian Alberto Gilardino to head home two miutes later.

Govou's second of the match in the 54th minute settled the score for the former world champions who now have two wins from two games following their 3-0 win over Georgia.

However Domenech, their hard-to-please coach, said it was far from perfect.

"It wasn't perfect, and I hope there will be better performances from us," he said.

"At certain times in the match we left ourselves exposed and were susceptible to danger.

"But overall I felt we were calm, and above all sure of ourselves. Everyone is feeling good and technically we were superior."

With three goals inside the first 20 minutes, this was certainly no World Cup final.

France played with discipline and abandon while Italy, who have yet to restart their Serie A league championship, often seemed a step behind their hosts.

The first half, despite an effort from Gianluca Zambrotta which shaved Gregory Coupet's crossbar early on and a shot from Franco Semioli which had Coupet scrambling, was all about France.

On the quarter hour a Patrick Vieira cross from midfield found Thierry Henry deep on the left, but the Arsenal striker stumbled against the Italy defence.

Minutes later a speculative shot from Florent Malouda was saved by Buffon, however the big keeper's rebound fell to Henry.

From an impossible angle Henry struck for goal, and his shot took a deflection off Fabio Cannavaro before finding the net.

Almost immediately Italy reduced arrears, and did so in style.

An Andrea Pirlo free kick from the right wing caused all sorts of confusion among the French defence and as they raced back to defend AC Milan striker Gilardino escaped the attentions of Govou and placed the easiest of headers past Coupet.

France continually looked the most dangerous of the two sides, however Italy were not to be discounted especially on the counter attack.

Coupet had to look lively in the 28th minute when Semioli appeared from nowhere to meet a Pirlo cross which had been dummied by Gilardino.

France began the second half in just a determined fashion as they had the first.

Only two minutes in, a claim for a penalty by Govou was correctly waved away after Cannavaro appeared to bring him down in the box.

Less than 10 minutes later claimed his second of the match, rising to meet Willy Sagnol's cross and head past the beaten Buffon.

A clash of heads with Cannavaro left the Italy captain complaining, and obviously feeling the pain.

Towards the hour mark Gilardino was shown a yellow card for simulating a penalty after the slightest of touches by Coupet.

Five minutes later some nice build-up play by France almost led to their third goal, however Buffon this time managed to push away Govou's low drive across the goalline.

Govou was replaced by Sylvain Wiltord in the 74th minute.

Italy looked determined. Three minutes after Govou's exit a well-struck Pirlo free-kick found the head of Cannavaro whose effort was punched out by Coupet.

Coupet was called to action again in the final minute of regulation time, rising to catch a lob from Pirlo after the midfielder surprised the entire French defence.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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