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France gain more respect with Italy win

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, Nov 15, 2012 10:34 hrs
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France may no longer be the team who dominated world soccer in the late 1990s, but a draw against Spain and a win in Italy have shown they have at least become a force once again.

Les Bleus are locked with Spain in their World Cup qualifying group after drawing 1-1 away against the world and European champions last month before beating Euro 2012 runners-up Italy 2-1 in Parma in a friendly on Wednesday.

"We are not the strongest (team) but we have qualities," said coach Didier Deschamps, who took over from Laurent Blanc in August after France were knocked out in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

"We're trying to be organised, to find our balance. There is still work to do but there is a desire to do well. The mentality and the mindset are important.

"You can have all the qualities in the world - if you don't have the mental strength, you cannot go far. We have that mental strength."

On Wednesday, France fell behind in the 35th minute when Stephan El-Shaarawy beat the offside trap to slot the ball past Hugo Lloris.

But Mathieu Valbuena equalised two minutes later, toying with two defenders before curling a delightful shot into the far top corner.

Bafetimbi Gomis poked the ball home from a missed Patrice Evra shot in the 67th minute to give France the win.

"During these first six months, it has not been all perfect," said Deschamps, who praised his team's mental strength when Olivier Giroud snatched a last-gap draw in Spain.

"But after three World Cup qualifiers, we've got seven points out of nine with a draw in Spain. We have something to build on."

Paris St Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti, who watched the game, said that France had grown confidence on the back of their performance against Spain.

"They play with more self confidence," the Italian told French sports daily L'Equipe on Thursday. "It is a well balanced team. It is a complete team. I think France and Italy will be very competitive in 2014."

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