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Italy vs. France: Score and Reaction from 2016 International Friendly

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2016

France's Antoine Griezmann, center, celebrates with his teammate Olivier Giroud, right, and Moussa Sissoko after scoring his side's second goal during the Euro 2016 semifinal soccer match between Germany and France, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

France defeated Italy Thursday 3-1 at Stadio San Nicola in a highly competitive international friendly ahead of some crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Anthony Martial, Oliver Giroud and Layvin Kurzawa scored for France to give Les Bleus an impressive, momentum building victory in Bari, Italy.

The French kicked off the scoring in the 17th minute when Martial beat Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to seize a 1-0 lead.

Martial's first career marker for the senior national squad was set up by midfielder Paul Pogba in what was a smooth link-up between the Manchester United teammates, as pointed out by Jonas Giaever of TV 2 Sporten:

Jonas Giæver @CheGiaevara

Pogba to Martial and France lead 1-0 against Italy. Fantastic pass by the former to find his Man United teammate.

France seemed in firm control, but Azzurri struck back a short time later when Graziano Pelle scored in the 21st minute to knot the score at 1-1.

According to OptaPaolo, Pelle's goal continued the 31-year-old's recent hot streak for the national team:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

4 - Graziano Pellè has scored 4 goals in his last 7 games played with Italy. Redemption. #ItaliaFrancia

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Pelle's goal was set up by Eder, which was a continuation of the synergy they displayed while playing together at the European Championships.

ESPN's David Amoyal fully backed the tandem despite the fact that many observers have criticized the decision to play them alongside each other:

David Amoyal @DavidAmoyal

Keep hating on Pelle' and Eder but there is a reason two Azzurri coaches believe in them

While Italy appeared to regain some momentum with that goal, France seized it right back just minutes later when they took a 2-1 lead.

Giroud converted a feed from Kurzawa in the 28th minute and further established himself as a dominant force at striker for Les Tricolores.

Per Squawka Football, Giroud cemented the fact that he is in ideal form with his goal, which ensured France was in control entering halftime:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Olivier Giroud has scored 6 goals in his last 8 games for France. In form for Les Blues. https://t.co/77t7BNBmBt

The Italians made some headway during the second half, and they actually both out-shot the French 12-10 and won the possession battle by keeping the ball 60 percent of the time, according to WhoScored.com.

They were unable to find the equalizer, though, and France took advantage of that by putting the match away in the 81st minute when Kurzawa scored off Pogba's second assist of the contest.

Much like seemingly the entire French squad, Kurzawa's goal was the latest in a long line of recent success, particularly from an attacking perspective, per Mohammed Ali of French Football Weekly:

Mohammed Ali @mohammedali_93

Also - Kurzawa? That's four goals in his last five. For a left-back. Super @layvinkurzawa

That insurance marker ended any hopes of an Italian comeback, and it ensured that France will have a ton of confidence entering World Cup qualifying.

France's next match will be Tuesday against Belarus, and following their away victory over Italy, anything other than a comfortable win would be surprising.

Italy will take on Israel Monday, and despite Thursday's 3-1 defeat, they don't figure to struggle much against what should be an overmatched squad.

Even in a losing effort, Italy often looked dangerous on the attack and had France on their heels at times, so there are plenty of positive takeaways for them.

France furthered their status as an international soccer power, however, and even though they suffered a disappointing loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, they are back on track and have the look of top contenders to hoist the trophy at the 2018 World Cup.

Post-Match Reaction

While the final score line was a bit more lopsided in favor of France than the flow of play suggested, the Italians were gracious in defeat Thursday.

According to Italy soccer's official Twitter account, midfielder Marco Parolo acknowledged that they didn't do enough to take advantage of scoring chances:

Italy @azzurri

#Parolo: "The result is a bit harsh, we had our chances but it's the goals that count in football." #ItalyFrance

Defender Giorgio Chiellini made it clear that he felt Italy didn't play anywhere close to their potential, but he remained positive heading toward the World Cup qualifier against Israel:

Italy @azzurri

#Chiellini: "We could and should have done better. #Ventura's impact has been really positive. Winning against #Israel will be fundamental."

Italy didn't prevail Thursday, but they faced a tough test that should ensure that they are prepared for the big qualifying matches ahead of them.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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