Andrea Pirlo netted on his 100th Italy appearance for a 2-1 victory over Mexico and won over the Maracanà. “They’re calling me Pirlinho!”
The midfielder was voted Man of the Match after his sensational free kick on the night he celebrated his Azzurri century.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to reach 100 caps and mark it with a goal at the historic Maracanà. It was something I could only dream of since childhood.
“It was a free kick, one of my goals. I am happy with the victory and that I made the fans happy. The goalkeeper? He jumped for it and perhaps thought he wasn’t going to get there, so pulled out.
“In fact, I should’ve scored more goals tonight, but the one I put under the wall was charged down by my teammates! Another was wide, oh well.
“It wasn’t easy to play in this heat and atmosphere, but the opening game is always fundamental, as it helps your confidence going forward in the tournament.
“We opted for a different system with Riccardo Montolivo trying to get between the lines. It went fairly well, we know that we can improve it and have the time to work on that.”
The crowd at the Maracanà was chanting Pirlo’s name before he took the decisive free kick, so does he feel a bit Brazilian?
“I don’t know that. I feel Italian and was fortunate enough to grow up playing in Italy. Of course it is pleasing to be compared to Brazilian champions. They already started calling me Pirlinho!
“The thing I liked more than anything in the game was my pass for Ignazio Abate down the left when Mario Balotelli nearly scored.
“I feel important for my teams, but terms like world class and champion aren’t up to me and I’d never use them for myself.”
Pirlo also should’ve been awarded a spot-kick in the first half, but the appeal was waved away by the Chilean referee.
“It definitely felt like a clear penalty. The important thing was to win, the rest falls by the wayside.”
The Juventus midfielder has said he will retire from international duty after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I try to train hard and live well off the field. I still have the enthusiasm of a kid and want to be at the next World Cup.”
The voice of wisdom Pirlo also revealed Balotelli had lied to Rai Sport when he said he didn’t know two cards would lead to a ban in the Confederations Cup.
“I had told Mario before the game not to get booked, as with two cards he’d get suspended. He just has to show off his physique… I told him off after the goal, but it was too late.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!