Football is done. Football is back! Only the international kind, don’t get too excited.
Olivier Giroud got France’s World Cup preparations off to a good start with his 31st international goal on Monday, bringing him level with the legendary Zinedine Zidane for fourth all-time in Les Blues history. It was a bit of a scrappy goal from future Liverpool player Nabil Fekir’s corner — everyone’s signing for Liverpool this summer, right? — but they all count the same.
Giroud is now just three goals behind David Trezeguet, and if he keeps up his good form from the second-half of the season, he just might catch-up this summer. The Chelsea striker looks on course to be Deschamps’ first-choice striker in Russia.
Less obvious is who Deschamps will pick for the midfield. N’Golo Kanté was an unused substitute in this friendly — Matuidi, Tolisso, and N’Zonzi played, with Pogba getting a runout towards the end — though presumably at least one of the Kanté twins would play if and when France face tougher opposition than Ireland.
Speaking of not so tough opposition, Italy got the Roberto Mancini era underway on Monday on positive note as well, by beating World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia 2-1. Mancini recalled the oft-maligned Mario Balotelli, who repaid his former coach’s faith by scoring the opener. One-time Chelsea target Andrea Belotti added a second before current Chelsea spare part Davide Zappacosta decided to make things interesting by gifting a clear-cut chance to the hosts. What Gianluigi Donnarumma was doing so far out of his goal was also unclear, but Zappacosta’s gaffe was rather unbelievable for an ostensibly top level player. (And this is the player keeping my man Todd Kane out of the Chelsea first-team grumble grumble!?)
Elsewhere, another youthful edition of the US Men’s National Team recorded a credible 3-0 beatdown of hapless Bolivia. Timothy Weah, 18-year-old son of former Chelsea striker (and current President of Liberia) George Weah, got one the goals, his first ever for the USA, but unfortunately Matt Miazga was only picked for the bench, which is where he stayed for the full 90. Future Chelsea superstar Christian Pulisic (please please please) played most of the game.
The 2018 World Cup starts in three weeks and preparations for all participants will begin in earnest now.