When Italy and France were drawn together in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying back in January, the imagination of their coaches was instantly fired.
While Marcello Lippi said Group B was "very exciting and very difficult" and that he would "start thinking about France after the World Cup", his counterpart Raymond Domenech admitted he would be "pleased to play against a big team like Italy" and how he had "wanted to play them for a long time". Neither could have envisaged they would get the chance of a warm-up before doing battle on the road to Austria and Switzerland - or that the game would be under the global glare of the FIFA World Cup final, which Italy won 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Berlin.
The fact the neighbouring countries had been paired together was already of huge interest given that their last competitive meeting prior to Berlin had been the UEFA EURO 2000™ final in Rotterdam. Marco Delvecchio had looked like giving the Azzurri the trophy when he struck in the 55th minute only for Sylvain Wiltord to level four minutes into added time. David Trezeguet then scored a golden goal winner for Les Bleus in the 13th minute of extra time. The French, now the ones with a point to prove, will have the honour of staging the next EURO encounter between the teams in Paris on 6 September with the Italian return coming on 8 September 2007 at an as-yet unknown venue. Wherever the world champions hold the match, they can expect as testing a time as endured in the Olympiastadion.
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