Prandelli sees Azzurri potential in Bleus defeat
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes his side's World Cup hopes are in good hands despite suffering a fifth consecutive friendly defeat in a 2-1 reverse to old foes France.
Second half substitute Bafetimbi Gomis scored a 68th minute winner for Les Bleus after Mathieu Valbuena's fine individual effort cancelled out a superb opener from AC Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy in Parma on Wednesday.
It was the Azzurri's fifth straight friendly reverse since going down 2-0 to Poland a year ago.
"I'm a little disappointed to have lost, because the team had a grip on this match," admitted Prandelli.
But with Italy sitting comfortably atop Group B after four of 10 World Cup qualifiers, Wednesday's match was more about seeing what Italy's up and coming players could do against Didier Deschamps' side.
He added: "We sometimes forget how the team played and simply look at the result, but I prefer to lose a match like this and see that my team has made some progress."
Prandelli handed rare starts to 19-year-old midfielder Marco Varretti of Paris Saint Germain, who took the place of Andrea Pirlo behind an attacking trio composed of Stephan El Shaarawy and Lazio's Antonio Candreva with Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in the middle.
Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon was also rested in place of PSG's Salvatore Sirigu, who had little to do in the opening period as Italy bossed France for the first half hour.
After Balotelli hit the post and crossbar early on with a curling drive from El Shaarawy's lay-off, the AC Milan forward opened the scoring just after the half hour.
Balotelli fed Riccardo Montolivo and the AC Milan midfielder sent in a perfect ball for El Shaarawy to beat France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris low down from just inside the area.
One of Milan's star performers in what has been a turblulent start to the Serie A campaign, Prandelli has plenty of faith in Italy under-21 star El Shaarawy.
"El Shaarawy played well, he stuck to his job and did a lot of running back to help the midfield, maybe a bit too much," said Prandelli.
"He has room for improvement, but he has a lot of qualities and at a club like AC Milan he has a lot of support and opportunity.
"For us, he's a big hope for the future."
Italy's joy was curtailed when Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena shook off two challenges to score a fine individual effort barely two minutes later.
Verratti, who has lit up the Parc des Princes in his first season at PSG, had a promising but not brilliant first half and was replaced by Juventus star Pirlo for the second period.
When Didier Deschamps replaced Olivier Giroud with Gomis, it reaped rewards in the 68th minute when the Lyon striker got his boot to Patrice Evra's angled pass to beat Sirigu from close range.
Italy battled for an equaliser and had France on the ropes for brief spells, however the visitors held on for the win.
Coming weeks after a commendable 1-1 draw away to Spain in World Cup qualifying, Manchester United defender Evra said: "People should be just as proud of us now as they were after our result in Spain.
"But our objective remains the World Cup, not drawing against Spain or beating Italy in a friendly."
While France are neck and neck with Spain at the top of their group, Prandelli -- who continues to experiment with personnel and tactical formations -- look poised to secure a qualifying berth from Group B.
One man upon whom Prandelli will be counting is Balotelli, if he can rein in the colourful City striker's ambitions.
"He had a very good match. He's always thinking about scoring, it's like an obsession for him. It's a pity, because he played very well," he said.
"But Mario just has to keep on working, keep his composure, maintain his enthusiasm and I'm sure the goals will come for him."