Italy vs. France: 6 Things We Learned
Italy hosted France in a glamour friendly on Wednesday in Parma at the Stadio Ennio Tardini.
Les Bleus grabbed a win that many might feel was a little undeserved through substitute Bafetimbi Gomis, which completed a comeback that was started by a special strike from Mathieu Valbuena.
Stephan El Shaarawy opened the scoring, his first for the Azzurri, who fielded a youthful team as Cesare Prandelli looked toward Brazil 2014.
Here are six things we learned.
El Shaarawy Picked Himself for Italy's Next World Cup Qualifier
Stephan El Shaarawy put in another astounding performance on Wednesday—for the Azzurri, as opposed to the Rossoneri, who he has carried for the most part of this season—which will be considered the final step of his rise to prominence.
Il Faraone managed to lose Mamadou Sakho in the first half and latch onto a sublime Riccardo Montolivo pass, before calmly slotting the ball past a helpless Hugo Lloris.
It was not just his goal; El Shaarawy was lively throughout the game, darting in from the left flank to devastating effect. Mathieu Debuchy was given a torrid time by the Rossoneri starlet, who thrived in a similar role to the one he has impressed so much in with Milan.
Tonight proved beyond doubt that El Shaarawy will be a key player for Italy at the next World Cup.
4-3-3 Is the Future for Italy
Cesare Prandelli opted to revamp the way that the Azzurri approach games on Wednesday by setting the side up in a new 4-3-3 formation.
Italy possess plenty of dynamic, forward-thinking players to make this formation work, and so it proved against France in spells.
Stephan El Shaarawy is perfect for the 4-3-3 with his darting runs in from the left flank. Riccardo Montolivo and Claudio Marchisio are ideal for operating as a mezz'alas, either side of a deep-lying playmaker such as the great Andrea Pirlo, or his heir, Marco Verratti.
Christian Maggio struggled to cope defensively, but then there is Ignazio Abate to step into the side as an alternative to the Napoli player.
Hopefully Prandelli can continue to mould the group into this formation that promises to be so effective in two years' time.
Prandelli Must Choose Bonucci and Chiellini as His First-Choice Centre-Backs
Cesare Prandelli has three top-class centre-backs at his disposal, but the 3-5-2 is not an ideal formation moving forward, so the former Fiorentina manager must choose two.
Andrea Barzagli appears to be the must likely candidate to be left out. The Juventus centre-back has been excellent over the last 18 months, but age is not on his side.
Barzagli will be 33 years old by the time the next World Cup arrives, which is not necessarily too old, but one can imagine his form will be on the slide by this point.
Barzagli can take part of the blame.
Leonardo Bonucci, on the other hand, is only getting better with age. Currently 25 years old, Bonucci will be approaching his peak by the time that Brazil 2014 arrives.
Chiellini is indispensable for the moment, providing tremendous leadership qualities that will prove invaluable to Prandelli.
Marco Verratti Is Capable of Succeeding Andrea Pirlo
Marco Verratti made the most of starting for Italy against France, seamlessly fitting into a new-look 4-3-3 Azzurri.
The PSG starlet is often touted as a successor to Andrea Pirlo, but expectations were only verified when the former Pescara centre-midfielder slotted into the Italy team with ease.
Verratti did not do anything special, but his presence on the side, movement into space and intelligent distribution was surely enough to convince Cesare Prandelli that he is the future fulcrum of the side.
Mathieu Valbuena Is Wildly Underrated
Mathieu Valbuena put in a superb performance for France against Italy, demonstrating what a wonderful player he really is.
The L'OM star is finally breaking into the French starting lineup—having only made his debut in 2010—which might be considered to be belated given he is already 28 years old.
The Marseille wizard did not play for any of the French youth teams, which could be a reason for not appearing for Les Bleus until he was 26, but the winger is now making up for lost time.
Valbuena, who possesses superb balance and close control, is one of the best dribblers in European football. He caused Christian Maggio all sorts of problems throughout the game.
We can only be grateful to Didier Deschamps for selecting him for Les Bleus and providing him this platform to entertain us.
Bafetimbi Gomis Needs to Leave Lyon Before Brazil 2014
Bafetimbi Gomis showed exactly what he can offer a side in his cameo for Les Bleus on Wednesday.
The powerful striker is not seen as an automatic starter for Lyon due to Lisandro Lopez's presence. The former St. Etienne player has even been dropped this season for 20-year-old Algerian Rachid Ghezzal.
Gomis must leave L'OL in one of the next two transfer windows in search of guaranteed football and a project where he will be seen to be integral to the side's tactics and philosophy moving forward.
Given what a nuisance Gomis can be for defenders due to his physical prowess, there is the potential for him to become one of the most feared strikers in French football if he can become confident again.