Two late strikes earned France a 2-1 win against ten-man England in their opening European Under-21 Championship Group C fixture in Cesena on Tuesday.
Two of the Azzurrini’s major rivals to win the competition being hosted in Italy and San Marino this summer went head-to-head in a thrilling encounter at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi.
Moussa Dembele was handed a golden chance to give France the lead when they were awarded a penalty for handball midway through the first half, only for goalkeeper Dean Henderson to deny the Lyon striker from 12 yards with a superb diving save.
France were made to pay when Foden put England in front early in the second half with a wonderful solo goal, dribbling past several opponents before calmly passing a finish into the bottom corner.
However, the tide turned again on the hour mark when English midfielder Hamza Choudhury was sent off for a rash challenge on Jonathan Bamba inside the box to concede a second penalty. Houssem Aouar of Lyon took over penalty but fared no better as his effort crashed back off the post.
France piled on the pressure and were rewarded with two minutes remaining when Jonathan Ikone drilled a low shot into the bottom corner to equalise, before a horrible mis-cue from Aaron Wan-Bissaka ended up in his own net to gift Les Bleus victory deep in stoppage time.
What did Italy learn?
It’s hard to imagine that Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio wasn’t keeping a close eye on this meeting between two of the host country’s potential title rivals.
England have been tipped by many as favourites and while they showed glimmers of their undoubted champion potential, in conceding two penalties, needlessly going a man down, collapsing late on and squandering some promising openings they showed they are still far from the finished article.
As for France, a disciplined performance risked being undermined by their inability to stick the ball in the net until the late drama. The end of the game changed that, but Sylvain Ripoll might still harbour concerns about his side’s lack of a clinical edge without a numerical advantage.