Soft-spoken coach Raymond Domenech praised his players for an almost flawless performance which earned them an ovation from the often temperamental Parisian fans.
''The perfect match is when you score on every attacking move and when your opponents never put you in real trouble,'' said Domenech. ''We were not far from that.'' Asked if he considered this victory one of the most impressive since he took over the national team in 2004, Domenech said: ''No, we have done better during the World Cup.'' The French coach was referring to the 1-0 success over Brazil in the quarter-finals during which Zidane had been outstanding.
The French fans chanted the name of the now retired player during the second half of yesterday's match but it did not last long as the performance of captain Patrick Vieira and his team mates was highly convincing.
With Zidane definitively out of the picture, Olympique Marseille's Franck Ribery and Olympique Lyon's Florent Malouda were called upon to play a bigger role.
Ribery looked ready to jump into Zidane's shoes, assuming a greater share of the playmaking duties against the Italians.
''We played the way we did during the World Cup,'' said Vieira. ''We now feel confident and strong.'' France have won three successive matches, including two away to Bosnia and Georgia, since losing the World Cup final to Italy in penalties.
''It's always good to beat the world champions. It boosts your morale and it prepares you for the future,'' Malouda said.
France are on six points from two games in Group B, level with Scotland, whom they face in Glasgow next month.
Domenech also confirmed that Claude Makelele would be called up when needed even though the 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder has made known his desire to retire from the international game.
''Claude still has several great years in front of him,'' he said.
''France must rely on their best players. He has the right to say what he wants and I have the right to do what I want.
''Friendly games are made to help new players learn what the international level is but the qualifiers require the best possible side,'' Domenech said.
REUTERS PDS RN1846