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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
France 3-1 Italy
By Paul Fletcher

Sidney Govou celebrates scoring for France
Govou scored two excellent goals
France avenged their World Cup final defeat with a deserved victory over Italy in a Group B Euro 2008 qualifier.

Sidney Govou volleyed France ahead after 69 seconds before Thierry Henry's shot from a tight angle deflected off Fabio Cannavaro and into the net.

Italy hit back through Alberto Gilardino, who headed home an Andrea Pirlo free-kick.

Govou superbly headed home France's third, while Cannavaro and Franco Semioli went close for Italy.

It was a scintillating game, brought to life by Govou's technically brilliant strike as he wrapped his leg around a deep cross from William Gallas and struck the ball across Gianluigi Buffon.

However, Italy may feel that Gallas should have been flagged offside when the ball was played through to him.

The World Cup final in Berlin 58 days earlier culminated in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, but the match at the Stade de France was of much higher quality and entertainment value.

France made most of the early running and new Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, who watched his team draw at home to Lithuania on Saturday, cut a frustrated figure as he watched from the sidelines.

Italy's only early opportunity came through Gianluca Zambrotta, who found himself in space inside the France area but drilled his shot over the crossbar.

Henry struck with a rebound after Buffon had saved Florent Malouda's low long-range strike.

Buffon may well have saved Henry's shot but was undone by the slight deflection off Cannavaro.

The Italian keeper, though, made a good save to thwart Franck Ribery after Gilardino had pulled one back for Italy.

And France keeper Gregory Coupet showcased his skills with a brilliant goalline clearance, palming the ball away at full stretch after Semioli had connected with Fabio Grosso's low cross.

France scored the decisive goal after the break - with Govou again vindicating his selection ahead of Louis Saha with a superb header from Willy Sagnol's cross.

Govou sustained an injury for his troubles, clashing heads with Cannavaro after heading the ball.

The Lyon striker almost completed his hat-trick with a low strike across goal but Buffon made an amazing fingertip save.

The French team retained possession superbly as the match moved into its final stages - and almost scored a fourth through Ribery.

The Marseille forward came within inches of a goal - his strike just flying wide of Buffon's goal.

Italy did create one final chance but Coupet was equal to Cannavaro's header on a night that firmly belonged to Raymond Domenech's team.


France: Coupet, Sagnol, Gallas, Thuram, Abidal, Ribery (Saha 88), Vieira, Makelele, Malouda, Govou (Wiltord 75), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Landreau, Boumsong, Clerc, Givet, Diarra.

Booked: Henry.

Goals: Govou 2, Henry 18, Govou 55.

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Grosso, Semioli (Di Michele 54), Pirlo, Gattuso, Perrotta, Cassano (Inzaghi 73), Gilardino (De Rossi 87).
Subs Not Used: Abbiati, Oddo, Dainelli, Delvecchio.

Booked: Cannavaro, Perrotta, Gilardino, Grosso.

Goals: Gilardino 20.

Att: 78,800

Ref: Herbert Fandel (Germany).



SEE ALSO
Euro 2008 qualifiers clockwatch
06 Sep 06 |  Internationals
Zidane off as Italy win World Cup
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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