Italy vs France: Rating the Azzurri in Their Friendly Loss Against Les Bleus
Somebody please explain the point of these international friendlies in November to me.
Seriously, who came up with the idea of having national teams play games four months before their next qualifier?
Players get subbed in and out every five minutes, so any semblance of building familiarity is out of the door. Coaches state they don't care if they lose (because it's only a friendly) and players tell us the games matter but end up walking around for 90 minutes and doing their very best not to get too tired.
Players risk injuries, if they even bother to show up.
In my humble opinion, teams would be better served spending a week playing paintball and singing karaoke. At least that builds some chemistry and team spirit and it provides the fans with more interesting news stories and footage than the game itself.
The only things you can learn from these games have to do with the quality of the new players that get the chance to show they belong on this stage, but even then you have to be careful as a player might just be having a particularly good or bad day.
So, in this article we'll grade every Italian player that set foot on the pitch today and try to determine whether they aided their chance to actually represent their country in a game that matters.
Salvatore Sirigu had a fairly quiet day as the French didn't really threaten the Italian goal that often.
It has to be frustrating for a goalkeeper to not have a busy day and still see your team lose.
In fairness to Sirigu, he couldn't be blamed for any of the two French goals. He looked good when called into action and showed that he is more than capable to be the team's backup goalie behind Gianluigi Buffon.
Andrea Barzagli is the type of player you never notice unless he makes a mistake.
He played a quiet, good game but was beat far too easy by Mathieu Balbuena for the equalising goal.
Barzagli rarely makes these mistakes, and he is one of the first names on coach Cesare Prandelli's team sheet. No harm done.
The Roma-man had a good performance, working very hard all game long and making life difficult on the defense with his trademark runs.
He didn't pay attention to his man, Bafetimbi Gomis, who was able to put away the second French goal, but the entire defense looked bad on that play.
Outside of that one mistake, Balzaretti was one of the better players for the Squadra tonight.
In the absence of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini was named captain for the Italians.
Chiellini had a quiet game, which is not a bad thing for a defender. I thought he looked a bit tired, maybe because of the busy schedule he has to go through with Juventus.
He did a good job reading the game and had a couple of timely interventions, but he didn't shine in any way.
Still, not a bad performance from the Juve-man.
I like Antonio Candreva, but I didn't like his performance tonight.
He was very active and around the ball, but he did very little when he had the ball in his possession.
Most of the time, he was in the way of Christian Maggio when he was trying to work his magic. Bad passing, losing possession a lot and contributing very little in general, Candreva had a miserable night.
Candreva is a good player who had a bad game. No harm done.
Man of the Match: Christian Maggio
Christian Maggio started a bit shaky but got better as the game wore on.
He did an excellent job against Franck Ribéry, not an easy matchup by any means. Defensively near-perfect, Maggio did everything he could to contribute to the attack. His passing was a bit sloppy at times, but he was the best man on the field for the Italians nonetheless.
Maggio is one of the most underrated players in football right now, and could be the best two-way player in Europe.
Claudio Marchisio was so invisible, I couldn't even find a photo of him during the game.
Maybe there is something to the theory that the Juventus midfield is being overworked, as we have come to expect far better from Marchisio. He was a complete non-factor in this game.
Marchisio remains one of the best players the Italians have on their roster, so he will not have to dwell on this performance. That said, this might have been the worst game I've ever seen from the Juve midfielder.
Marco Verratti had a great game, but he made a big mistake on the first goal. If it weren't for that, his grade would have been a lot higher.
It's incredible how mature the play of this kid is. Italian teams must be kicking themselves for losing such a wonderful talent to PSG.
Verratti did a great job filling in for Andrea Pirlo, and it's easy to see him take over for the Juventus maestro in a year or two.
Riccardo Montolivo remains an enigma.
He'll play terrible for 80 minutes and have that one moment of brilliance that wins you a game. It's what he does.
I cringe every time I see his name on the team sheet. I was scared when he stepped up to take his penalty against England in the past European Championship, because I don't trust him for an inch.
And yet, his assist on the only Italian goal was perfect. Every French player knew the pass was coming, and he still got the ball to Stephan El Shaarawy. Just beautiful.
Montolivo lost a lot of possession and was caught out of position all game long, but when it mattered, he delivered the perfect assist.
As much as it agonises me to say this, he'll remain an integral part of this team.
He's as crazy as Lindsay Lohan on a Saturday night, but boy can he play.
Mario Balotelli is easily the most talented striker on the Italian roster. He was unlucky not to score and it was his power move that set up the Italian goal.
He got kicked around quite a bit by the French, but he kept fighting and was a constant headache to any player guarding him.
If he can stay out of trouble, he"ll be a building block for this team for years to come.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Stephan El Shaarawy gets this grade because of his goal. He did a great job finishing his run, and that is a striker's main goal.
Outside of that shining moment, El Shaarawy worked very hard but showed everyone he is still a bit too young to really make a difference on this level. The talent is obviously there, but he is still a bit too light and inexperienced to take on backlines with this much talent.
He grew as the game wore on and showed everyone he is one of the biggest talents in Italy, but he'll require a little more time to grow into a full time starter.
Leonardo Bonucci had a solid game in relief of his teammate at Juventus, Andrea Barzagli.
His positioning was excellent and he was very active in stopping the French attack.
Bonucci will have a hard time breaking into the lineup with Barzagli and Giorgio Chielini forming one of the best defensive duos in all of football, but at least coach Prandelli will be happy to know he has a dependable backup in case of injury.
Emanuele Giaccherini made his presence felt immediately but failed to have a big impact on the game.
He missed a great chance late that would have tied the game, seeing his blast hit the crossbar.
Giaccherini is a good player, but he's not good enough to start for a world class side like Italy.
Andrea Pirlo took control of the game as soon as he hit the pitch, but he wasn't very sharp.
He lacked the edge he usually plays with, and his passing was far from perfect.
He didn't have a bad game at all, but he didn't have a particularly good game either. He is another member of that Juventus midfield that might be seeing too much time on the pitch.
Sebastian Giovinco brought a new energy to the field as soon as he came on in the second half.
He always seems to play faster than the players around him, and tonight was another example. While his performance wasn't decisive by any means, you couldn't help but notice the pace of the game going up as soon as he came onto the field.
Giovinco might be best used as a substitute to revitalise a team.
Alessandro Diamanti had a minimal impact on the game as a substitute, but he did bring some new energy to the field.
Not to be compared with the whirlwind that is Sebastian Giovinco, Diamanti is another solid player that provides coach Prandelli with another option on the wing.
He might not be a big name to fans who don't follow the Serie A that closely, but he definitely deserves his spot on this roster.
Alessandro Florenzi didn't really get a fair chance to prove his worth.
I could point to the foul he committed, but I'd rather give him an incomplete and another chance in a few months.