In football, timing is everything. As if they did not have enough motivation to beat Italy, Marco Materazzi’s ill-timed revelation of the words he used to provoke ZZ’s headbutt in July’s World Cup final on the eve of tonight’s encounter, to further fan the flames of French fury.
France were relentless. Sidney Govou opened the socring in only the second minute lashing in Gallas‘ cross with an angled drive. Sixteen minutes later it was two as Henry reacted quickest to Buffon’s save from Malouda to place the ball in the net with the aid of a deflection. Gilardino’s header shortly after gave Italy hope but in truth they were never in the game. Cassano hardly got a sniff of the ball and Semioli looked out of his depth. France created further chances in the second half and deservedly made it 3-1 through Govou’s header. They then had chances to further extend their lead but could not convert.
Italy looked like a group of players still on holiday, justifiably so given that their domestic league is yet to restart. New coach Roberto Donadoni is going to be in for a tough time if performances like this and the draw against Lithuania are repeated. His record of no wins in his first three matches in charge is one of the worst starts ever made by an Italian national coach. He will be hoping that by the time these sides next meet, most of the World Cup stars will be back and in form. For the French, tonight’s performance will go a small way towards healing the wounds inflicted on July 9th. However, the reality remains that it is Italy who proudly wear an extra star on their shirt.