Italy faces European rival France in what looks to be a hard-fought international friendly match that will stream live on Thursday as the two teams go through their final preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, which get underway starting this weekend.
For France, the game marks their first time regrouping as a unit since suffering a shattering, 1-0 extra time defeat to Portugal in the final of the 2016 UEFA European Championship, and France coach Didier Deschamps says that his players will draw motivation from that loss as they ready for their march to the World Cup in Russia two years from now.
— West Ham News (@WHUFC_News) August 31, 2016
But simply squaring off against European neighbors France should be motivation enough, the 47-year-old, fifth-year national team coach said.
“The Euros are behind us. My wish is to make use of it, yes, but not for us to focus too much on it. When we play neighboring countries, such as Germany, Spain and England, there is this healthy rivalry. It will be a glamor game.”
The France starting XI will also have different look from the team that came agonizingly close to taking the European title less that two months ago. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur will miss the friendly with an injury, as will Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna, while Deschamps left 35-year-old Juventus left-back Patrice Evra out of the side.
Watch a 60-second preview of the Italy vs. France international friendly match in the following video.
To find out how to watch a free live stream of the Italy vs. France final international friendly before the 2016 World Cup qualifiers, see the streaming links in the final paragraph of this article.
Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. Central European Summer Time at the 58,000-seat Stadio San Nicola in Bari, Italy, on Thursday, September 1. For fans in the United States, that start time will be 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, noon Pacific.
Though the Italy vs. France match is billed as a “friendly” there is nothing friendly about when two of Europe’s and the world’s top national teams get together.
“This match is never a friendly,” former France international star David Trezeguet said in the European press this week. “There’s a great rivalry, but also a lot of respect. I predict a draw: this will be a dress rehearsal ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.”
— Red Related (@RedRelated) August 25, 2016
As it turns out, once the matches start to count over the weekend as World Cup qualifying begins, the road for both France and Italy gets considerably easier. Italy opens their quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Israel on Monday, as they should find their way out of a Group G that, while it also includes Spain, is rounded out by Albania, Macedonia and Liechtenstein in addition to Israel.
The qualifiers may prove somewhat more competitive for France in Group A. Though they open against Belarus on Tuesday and will also face Bulgaria and Luxembourg, the group also includes the Netherlands and Sweden, meaning that one of those three teams, at least, will find itself shut out of Russia in 2018.
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Fans who want to watch a live stream of the Italy vs. France international friendly match can click on this link. But the best way to watch Italy Vs. France stream live online, free and legally would be ESPN3, the online-only service of ESPN, which will stream the Italy vs. France warm-up for World Cup qualifying, at this link. ESPN3 is free to subscribers of almost any major internet service provider and dozens of smaller ISPs. For a complete list, check this link, or try the instructions at this link if you do not have an account with an ISP that carries ESPN3.
[Photo By Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images]