As the neighbours meet in a Bari friendly on Thursday, UEFA.com looks back on two of Italy’s most memorable games against Les Bleus, and two away wins which can give France hope as they cross the Alps once more. Of the countries’ 37 games, Italy have won 17 and France ten with ten draws.
Italy 1-1 France (Italy win 5-3 on penalties), FIFA World Cup final, 9 July 2006
The day that Italy won their fourth global crown to become the most successful European country in FIFA World Cup history. Not only that, the Azzurri also gained revenge for their UEFA EURO 2000 final defeat by France and wiped out the pain of three successive World Cup shoot-out defeats.
Marco Materazzi, in for the injured Alessandro Nesta, cancelled out Zinédine Zidane’s early penalty with a 19th-minute header and though both teams had further chances, spot kicks were needed. David Trezeguet failed to convert and Fabio Grosso did the necessary. “I went to sleep with my son Christian and the cup,” said captain Fabio Cannavaro, who made his 100th international appearance in the decider. “His big smile when he woke up said everything.”
Italy 2-0 France, UEFA EURO 2008 group stage, 17 June 2008
The injured Cannavaro was sorely missed when these two sides met again in the last match of the UEFA EURO 2008 group stage. Despite slow starts – both teams had lost to the Netherlands and drawn with Romania – France and Italy had the chance to qualify provided the Oranje beat Romania in the other game.
The turning point came after 25 minutes when Éric Abidal was sent off for a foul in the box on Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo made no mistake from the spot. Daniele De Rossi made it two in the second half with a free-kick deflected in off Thierry Henry to give Italy their first victory against France in regulation time in 30 years. Qualification for the quarter-finals came with it. “Against the Dutch it was our worst performance in 12 years,” said goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. “Beating France was the best way to apologise to our supporters.”
Italy 3-4 France, friendly, 17 March 1912
Eugène Maës played a starring role in France’s first away victory against Italy, completing his hat-trick with the winner as he beat goalkeeper Vittorio Faroppa to the ball. The Red Star FC 93 player had only been given permission to leave his post with the French army to compete in the game the previous day, though it was to be one his last matches; he scored 15 goals in 11 games for Les Bleus but an injury sustained in World War I ended his playing career.
“I had to travel down from Caen, where I was stationed as a soldier, to Turin on my own,” remembered Maës in 1929. “I arrived on the morning of the game and was just exhausted. It was my toughest game. Toughest because it was very tight and you couldn’t tell until the end who would win; tough because of the travel; tough because I wasn’t used to playing with the wingers, Étienne Jourde and Fernand Faroux; tough because Renzo De Vecchi was marking me hard, and finally because of the home fans.”
Italy 0-1 France, friendly, 16 February 1994
It took another 82 years for France to secure what remains only their second win in 14 away games against Italy, but victory in Naples was to herald a new golden age for Les Bleus, who had failed to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals under Gérard Houllier. In their first game under young coach Aimé Jacquet, Youri Djorkaeff got the winner, with the AS Monaco FC player converting David Ginola’s cross following Franco Baresi’s mis-hit clearance.
Jacquet would lead France to glory at the 1998 World Cup, and they beat Italy again – 2-1 after extra time in Rotterdam to win UEFA EURO 2000 – but the significance of this friendly result was not lost on current France coach Didier Deschamps, a starter back in 1994. “I remember this game perfectly,” he said as he looked ahead to Wednesday’s game. “We’re neighbours – there is a rivalry between us. Italy have evolved, moving from defensive tactics to something surprising at EURO, with Cesare Prandelli introducing youth and freshness. They now aim to win games instead of avoiding defeats.”