NICE (Reuters) – France showed the full range of their attacking weapons as they continued their preparations for the World Cup in convincing fashion with a 3-1 win over Italy in a friendly on Friday.
Roberto Mancini’s second game in charge of Italy, who did not qualify for the World Cup, provided a decent challenge with Mario Balotelli looking dangerous on his club turf at Nice.
Les Bleus, who take on Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C in Russia this month, prevailed thanks to goals by Samuel Umtiti, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
Four days after beating Ireland 2-0 in Paris, France faced tougher opposition but their firepower made the difference even if coach Didier Deschamps made seven changes to the team.
Paul Pogba started in midfield but produced a below-par performance, meaning the inconsistent Manchester United player could lose a starting spot to Corentin Tolisso.
France took the lead after eight minutes when Kylian Mbappe’s fierce shot was parried by Salvatore Sirigu into the path of Umtiti, who poked the ball home from close range.
N’Golo Kante came close to doubling the tally after 20 minutes but his 20-metre shot hit the post.
Les Bleus earned a penalty for a Rolando Mandragora foul on Lucas Hernandez, which Griezmann coolly converted in the 29th.
Deschamps’s side let their guard down when keeper Hugo Lloris failed to deal with Balotelli’s free kick and defender Leonardo Bonucci followed up to fire home in the 36th.
France responded and after a lightning quick counter-attack, Dembele hit the bar with a fine shot. It was just a rehearsal for a similar move after the break, when the Barcelona striker this time curled another beautiful shot into the top corner.
Salvatore Sirigu spared Italy more pain when he tipped away substitute Florian Thauvin’s volley five minutes from time.
France will finish their preparations for the World Cup with a friendly against the United States in Lyon on June 9.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris