Italy lost their debut under new Coach Giampiero Ventura, as Graziano Pellè was not enough in a 3-1 defeat to France, but Gianluigi Donnarumma made history.
The Azzurri continued their poor record against France in friendlies, losing their last four meetings in a row.
Ventura made his debut on the Azzurri bench at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari with this international friendly, while France had their first game since losing the Euro 2016 Final in extra time to Portugal. As he had only three days to prepare, the new Coach made few changes from Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 line-up.
This was an historic occasion, as for the first time VAR (Video Assistance Referees) were tested out, communicating with official Bjorn Kuipers.
Djibril Sidibe was making his Bleus debut and flew into a very dangerous studs-up tackle on Daniele De Rossi, earning a yellow card in the opening three minutes.
Italy controlled the ball well in midfield, but an early defensive error proved costly. Andrea Barzagli did not expect Giorgio Chiellini to allow a pass through, so Anthony Martial pounced on the gift to beat Gigi Buffon one-on-one.
However, the Azzurri fought back immediately, as Eder burst past N’Golo Kante down the right and rolled across for Graziano Pellè, who spun on the spot to drill low into the near bottom corner, leaving Steve Mandanda stranded. It was his fourth goal in the last seven Italy appearances and his celebration shook off the tension from that Euro 2016 penalty miss.
Marco Parolo sprinted back to block a Blaise Matuidi counter, but France restored their advantage when Chiellini lost Olivier Giroud on a corner for the well-taken volley.
There was the chance to use VAR for the first time when De Rossi’s header from a corner hit Layvin Kurzawa on the arm, but there was a long delay getting the replay lined up and play continued. The video eventually suggested it was an unintentional handball.
Candreva flashed an angled drive across the face of goal after De Rossi laid it off, though the Roma midfielder seemed in a better position to score.
Gianluigi Donnarumma made his debut for the second half, at the age of 17 becoming the youngest ever goalkeeper for Italy and the youngest Azzurri player since 1911. Incredibly, the Milan shot-stopper wasn’t even born until 16 months after Buffon’s senior bow.
Andre-Pierre Gignac and Jack Bonaventura drilled wide, while Mandanda flapped at a Riccardo Montolivo strike and Donnarumma comfortably smothered a Dimitri Payet effort that bounced in front of him.
Marco Verratti came on, having missed Euro 2016 due to an injury, and moved Parolo over to the left. Pellè nodded a Candreva cross over the bar and Torino hitman Andrea Belotti came on for his senior Azzurri debut.
Donnarumma showed no nerves as he smothered at Gignac’s feet and Belotti didn’t make the most of a spectacular Alessandro Florenzi volleyed cross.
France added a third goal when Pogba smartly threaded through for Kurzawa, who spotted Donnarumma leading towards the middle to anticipate a cross and instead smashed it hard and low at the near post from the tightest of angles.
Donnarumma did better when catching a Pogba free kick that went through the wall.
Italy 1-3 France
Martial 17 (F), Pellè 21 (I), Giroud 28 (F), Kurzawa 80 (F)
Italy: Buffon (Donnarumma 46); Barzagli (Rugani 46), Astori, Chiellini; Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi (Montolivo 46), Bonaventura (Verratti 66), De Sciglio (Florenzi 58); Pellè, Eder (Belotti 74)
France: Mandanda; Sidibe, Varane, Koscielny (Umtiti 82), Kurzawa (Digne 91); Pogba, Kanté, Matuidi (Sissoko 63); Griezmann (Dembele 63), Giroud (Gignac 46), Martial (Payet 46)
Ref: Kuipers (NED)