Mario Balotelli scores in return to Italy; France beat Ireland in friendly

Mario Balotelli scores in return to Italy; France beat Ireland in friendly

Mario Balotelli marked his return to Italy with his first international goal in nearly four years as the Azzurri beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a friendly on Monday in Roberto Mancini’s first match in charge.

Balotelli, who last played and scored for Italy in the 2014 World Cup, broke the deadlock in the 21st minute when he controlled the ball about 20 yards from goal and lashed a shot inside the near post.

Andrea Belotti doubled his side’s advantage before Yahya Al-Shehri pulled one back for Saudi Arabia — who will play at the World Cup this summer while Italy watch at home — thanks to two errors in the Italian defense.

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Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir scored to lead France over Ireland on a rainy night at the Stade de France.

France warmed up for the tournament in Russia with a 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir

It was largely one-way traffic in Paris and Giroud gave the hosts a deserved lead in the 41st minute, stabbing home on the rebound after Seamus Coleman had cleared the Chelsea striker’s header off the line.

France’s second came courtesy of a goalkeeping error as Colin Doyle was unable to keep out Fekir’s strike, which came straight at him in the 44th minute.

Portugal let a two-goal lead slip and settled for a 2-2 draw with Tunisia as both sides began their World Cup preparations.

Playing without Cristiano Ronaldo and a trio of Sporting Lisbon players, Portugal still took the lead in the 23rd minute through Andre Silva’s header, and Joao Mario added to it with a powerful shot from outside the area in the 34th.

But Tunisia rallied with a goal by Anice Badri five minutes later, and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef equalised midway through the second half.

Earlier, Son Heung-Min’s spectacular second-half strike helped South Korea earn a comfortable 2-0 win over Honduras.

After a goalless first half, the Tottenham forward fired home from outside the area on the hour mark to open the scoring against the Central Americans. Moon Seon-Min added a second on his debut with 18 minutes remaining.

Former Barcelona youth player Lee Seung-Woo also impressed on his first appearance for the 2002 World Cup semifinalists, improving his chances of being named in the final squad.

A lacklustre Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw by DR Congo, with William Troost-Ekong’s opener cancelled out by Ben Malango’s penalty.

Ogenyi Onazi’s quick free kick was tucked in by Troost-Ekong in the 15th minute for his first international goal.

However, Nigeria failed to sustain the tempo and were ultimately undone at the back when substitute Ola Aina gave away a penalty when he fouled Issama Mpeko, though television replays suggested the incident occurred outside the area, and Malango sent 19-year-old Francis Uzoho the wrong way to level the scores in the 77th minute.

World Cup qualifiers Iran suffered a setback in a 2-1 defeat to Turkey in Instanbul.

Everton’s Cenk Tosun scored a goal early in both halves and Ashkan Dejagah’s stoppage-time penalty wasn’t enough to get Iran a share of the spoils.

Elsewhere, Wales stifled World Cup-bound Mexico to claim a 0-0 draw at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

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

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