Italy comes back to draw 2-2 with Brazil
Mario Balotelli scored a stunning goal as Italy came back from
two goals down to draw 2-2 with Brazil in an entertaining friendly
in Geneva on Thursday.
It looked as if Italy would pay for its missed opportunities
when Brazil took a 2-0 halftime lead thanks to goals from Fred and
However, Daniele De Rossi pulled one back nine minutes after the
interval and the in-form Balotelli leveled with a screamer from
about 25 yards (meters) three minutes later, taking his tally to
eight goals in eight games in 2013 for club and country.
”Italy’s two goals stemmed from our mistakes, and not from
their creation,” Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. ”When they
attacked well I managed to control it, in particular by coming out
of my area several times.
”I don’t want to mention names, it’s something that concerns
only us, but you can be sure we will talk about it. We made
mistakes in our passing and we made ourselves vulnerable at times.
But we can’t forget that Italy is a great team. But we still would
have won if we hadn’t made certain mistakes.”
Mattia De Sciglio and Alessio Cerci were given their Italy
debuts with the AC Milan defender starting, while Torino winger
Cerci came on at halftime.
Italy is without defender Giorgio Chiellini, who was sent home
Wednesday with injuries to both ankles, while Claudio Marchisio was
a late withdrawal due to illness.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will be pleased with the
performance as well as the result. Italy’s second consecutive
friendly draw follows a run of five successive defeats – a contrast
to its performance in World Cup qualifying, where Prandelli’s side
tops its group with 10 points from four games.
Italy’s qualifying campaign continues in Malta next week.
”We played a great game,” Prandelli said. ”We conceded two
goals after 30 minutes and it looked like the game was over. But
instead we were good to come back and did some interesting
”Mario scored a very good goal and created a number of chances
for himself. The important thing now is to get back our energy for
Tuesday because there are three very important points at stake
There was a minute’s silence before the game in memory of Pietro
Mennea, an Olympic sprint champion and former 200 meter world
record holder from Italy, who died Thursday. All the Italy players
wore black armbands.
Both teams also held up a banner against racism before the
match, while Milan striker Kevin Prince-Boateng made a special
appearance on the pitch and was greeted with warm applause.
Boateng was in the Swiss city attending an event against racism
at the U.N.’s European headquarters. The Milan striker made
headlines when he led teammates off the field in protest at racial
abuse from fans of Italian fourth-tier team Pro Patria during a
friendly in January.
Italy started brightly and had several chances to take an early
lead with Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar saving smartly from
Emanuele Giaccherini and Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli also saw a low drive deflected just past the right
post in the 13th minute.
The missed chances came back to haunt Italy when Brazil took the
lead in the 33rd minute. A cross from the left was headed on by
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci and Fred was on hand to volley home
from close range.
Andrea Pirlo came close to leveling five minutes from the break
but he curled a shot just past the left post from 17 yards
Brazil doubled its lead two minutes later following a rapid
counter attack. Neymar threaded the ball through to Oscar who
sidefooted it past Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Prandelli rang the changes at halftime, bringing on Stephan El
Shaarawy for Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, and Cerci for Pirlo.
The changes provided new impetus and the Azzurri pulled one back
nine minutes later when a corner from the left fell to De Rossi and
he fired it home from close range.
Balotelli leveled shortly afterwards, collecting the ball at
distance and firing a powerful shot into the top right corner.
The Milan striker could even have won the game for Italy later
on, but sent another shot straight at Julio Cesar and then saw an
effort deflected over the bar.