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Nov 14, 2012

Late Gomis goal finishes France fightback

France came back from a goal down to beat Italy 2-1 Wednesday in a high-profile international, sending the Azzurri to their sixth consecutive friendly defeat.

Germany, meanwhile, kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 stalemate with the Netherlands in Amsterdam, with both countries electing to start with fringe players because of injury or illness. With this round of friendlies coming in between two weekends of domestic play in Europe's leagues, most of the teams didn't have their first-choice lineups out.

After Stephen El Shaarawy gave Italy the lead in the 35th minute, Mathieu Valbuena equalized for France two minutes later and substitute Bafetimbi Gomis scored the winner in the 67th -- his first goal for France since scoring twice on his international debut in a friendly before the 2008 European Championship.

"We achieved a great result here in Italy, against the runners-up in Europe, a side with a lot of quality, even though they lacked some key players today," France coach Didier Deschamps said.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli hit the crossbar with a long-range shot in the 10th and teammate Emanuele Giaccherini also struck the goal-frame in the 86th.

Italy played without top goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, with Paris Saint-Germain's Salvatore Sirigu instead starting the match. Also, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo only came on in the 49th.

In its previous five friendlies, Italy was beaten by Poland, Uruguay, the United States, Russia and England.

In official matches lately, it's been a different story for the Azzurri, which reached the final of this year's European Championship. Italy has also won three of its opening four qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, drawing the other.

"We need to be ready when it counts," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "We need to focus on qualifying and experiment in these matches. ... We shouldn't lose, though."

Germany was looking to claim a third win over its bitter rival in 12 months but Marco Reus missed a chance to clinch victory for the visitors in injury time.

"We played very well against one of the best teams in Europe," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.

Pedro Rodriguez scored twice to help Spain rout host Panama 5-1.

David Villa, Sergio Ramos and Markel Susaeta got the others for the defending World Cup and European champions. Gabriel Gomez scored for Panama in the 86th minute to cut the lead to 5-1.

The long trip to the Panamanian capital did not slow Spain, which needed about 15 minutes to get rolling against the overmatched Central Americans.

Elsewhere, Portugal, missing the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, surprisingly drew 2-2 in Gabon.

Ronaldo was absent with an eye injury as Portugal came from a goal down to go ahead through goals by Pizzi and Hugo Almeida. Andre Biyogo Poko buried a 70th-minute penalty to earn a committed Gabon a draw against the world's No. 4-ranked team.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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