Second half goals from Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi ensured Italy claimed a superb 2-2 with Brazil.
Cesare Prandelli had to tinker with his starting XI for the game in Geneva, as Claudio Marchisio pulled out late through illness. Riccardo Montolivo took his place, whilst Emanuele Giaccherini supported Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo up front. For Brazil meanwhile, they had Italian connections in midfield as Lazio man Hernanes started in the trequarista role.
That late change didn’t seem to hamper the Azzurri though, as they started the game in an incredibly bright fashion. Giaccherini and Balotelli forced Julio Cesar into good early saves, with the national team finding space in behind the Selecao’s backline.
The tempo with which Prandelli’s men started the game was really forcing the Brazilians into mistakes – and it almost contributed to the opening goal. Balotelli nicked possession on the left-hand side, before crossing for Osvaldo, only for the Roma man to head over the bar.
The missed opportunities in front of goal however, came back to haunt Italy on 33 minutes. A cross from the left-hand side was not cleared properly at the near-post by Andrea Barzagli, and Fred was there to nonchalantly volley home past Buffon from four yards out.
Pirlo and Balotelli had more chances to beat the Queens Park Rangers shot-stopper, but once again poor finishing was punished by the Samba stars late on in the half. A fantastic counter-attack saw Neymar play a reverse pass to Oscar, who slipped the ball past Buffon and into the back of the net to double Brazil’s lead.
A change from 4-3-1-2 to 4-3-3 after the break created some genuine width for Italy – and it was one of those wide-men who created the first chance of the half. Substitute Alessio Cerci whipped in a lovely ball for Balotelli, but once again the former Manchester City striker couldn’t find the target.
Eventually though, the Azzurri did pull one back through De Rossi. A corner from the left-hand side fell to the Roma midfielder, and he poked it home from close-range.
Prandelli’s men finally had the wind in their sails, and just three minutes later, they bagged themselves an equaliser. Balotelli collected the ball 25 yards from goal, and despite fluffing a hatful of chances earlier in the game, the 22-year-old had the confidence to curl it past the keeper and into the top right-hand corner of the net.
With half an hour remaining, both teams went all-out for the win. The Azzurri’s front-three were combining effectively in front of goal, whilst the South American’s were breaking with lightning precision.
However, despite a series of good opportunities for Balotelli and a number of routine saves for Buffon, neither team could get the winning goal they craved.
Italy 2-2 Brazil
Scorers: Fred 33 (B), Oscar 42 (B); De Rossi 54 (I), Balotelli 57 (I)
Italy: Buffon; Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, De Sciglio (Antonelli 74); De Rossi (Diamanti 80), Pirlo (Cerci 45), Montolivo; Giaccherini (Poli 67); Balotelli (Gilardino 84), Osvaldo (El Shaarawy 45)
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Dante, David Luiz, Filipe Luis (Marcelo 77); Fernando, Hernanes, Oscar (Kaka 61); Hulk (Jean 85), Fred (Diego Costa 68), Neymar
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.