With their first World Cup group match just over two weeks away, France begin their preparations for the tournament in Russia with a hosting of Italy in Nice. Their opponents may not have qualified for the World Cup, but that is simply down to the difficulty of their qualifying group. They dropped just seven points in qualifying and only finished second due to Spain’s dominance, although their playoff defeat to Sweden did leave a bitter taste in the mouth for a lot of Italians.
That being said, they will be a big challenge for the talented French squad ahead of the festivities later this month, so Didier Deschamps’ squad will have to be at their best on Friday.
France’s squad is packed to the rafters with world class talent. Their selection of attackers could walk into most teams on the planet, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele, and Kylian Mbappe all present. The quality doesn’t stop there though; they have a midfield boasting Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, promising defenders like Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Benjamin Mendy, and Presnel Kimpembe, and a world class goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris.
This led them to an unsurprising top spot in World Cup qualifying, although their consistency and focus were called into question with a defeat to Sweden and a draw at home to Luxembourg. Still, Les Bleus are comfortable favourites to top their World Cup group as well.
Italy, meanwhile, will be taking a summer off after their dismal playoff loss against Sweden. This gives new manager Roberto Mancini time to rebuild his ageing squad, and the first port of call will be to establish a new first choice goalkeeper. Teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma won his 6th international cap against Saudi Arabia on Monday, and he looks to be the favourite to try and fill Buffon’s gloves.
That’s not the only change Mancini has made though. The likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Matteo Darmian, Claudio Marchisio, and Cir Immobile aren’t included, with Mancini instead bringing some fresher faces in. Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi hopes to make his debut, whilst club teammate Matteo Politano did just that against Saudi Arabia. 20 year old midfielder Rolando Mandragora also comes into the fray as the new boss looks to the future.
Italy don’t do particularly well away from home though. They have lost three of their last five away games and only won once, and whilst France’s defence may be a bit on the inexperienced side their attackers will relish the chance to get at an inexperienced defence. France have won six of their last eight home games and have scored at least two goals in seven of these games, so we’re backing a France Over 1.5 Team Goals alongside a 2-1 win for Les Bleus.
France Predicted Lineup: Lloris, Sidibe, Umtiti, Rami, Mendy, Kante, Pogba, Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud
Italy Predicted Lineup: Donnarumma, Zappacosta, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Criscito, Florenzi, Bonaventura, Jorginho, Insigne, Berardi, Balotelli
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France have won four, drawn two, and lost one of their last seven meetings with Italy. They have scored at least two goals in each of these four victories.
Spurs stopper Hugo Lloris will captain the France squad here, whilst the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Paul Pogba, and N’Golo Kante provide a star studded team in front of him. Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane could be given the evening off after his Champions League final last weekend.
Salvatore Sirigu, Mattia Perin, and Gianluigi Donnarumma will battle it out to replace Gianluigi Buffon, whilst Leonardo Bonucci will take the captain’s armband. Mario Balotelli is in the squad along with Lorenzo Insigne and Alessandro Florenzi, but apart from that it’s a rather inexperienced Italy setup by new boss Roberto Mancini.