Italy end 2011 with a 1-0 home defeat to Copa America holders Uruguay, as the Azzurri's unbeaten home run ends.
Mario Balotelli again started in attack, but this time was partnered by Roma striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. Gigi Buffon marked his 112th cap, matching the record set by Dino Zoff. Italy were unbeaten on home soil since a 2-0 friendly to Croatia in Livorno on August 16, 2006.
Italy wore their new strip with white collar at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Balotelli had his first shot on goal after 38 seconds, forcing ex-Lazio goalkeeper Nando Muslera into a double save.
However, it was Uruguay who took the lead at the third minute. Martin Caceres got down the right flank and pulled back to the penalty spot for Sebastian Fernandez to comfortably sweep into the near bottom corner, as he had plenty of time and space to pick his spot.
Italy took a very long time to get into their rhythm and Balotelli unleashed a screamer from distance to sting Muslera’s palms. Osvaldo had a great opportunity only to aim a weak header off target, though the linesman had not spotted his offside position anyway. Federico Balzaretti squirmed between defenders to set up Daniele De Rossi’s deflected shot, then Balotelli clattered into Muslera as they went for the loose ball.
Osvaldo took advantage of Diego Lugano’s slip, but was sent too wide to finish it off. There was a wonderful team move made of one-touch give-and-goes, but the Claudio Marchisio pull-back was a little too long. Another Osvaldo header was soft, but at the third attempt he rose to meet a corner and glanced it inches wide of the far post. The Roma forward was then halted for an incorrect offside position as he was pulling the trigger.
Balotelli managed to hook a Christian Maggio low cross with his back to goal and spun round Lugano to fire at Muslera. SuperMario went close again moments later, but could not keep his header down from a heavily-deflected cross and angrily kicked the post.
This was a friendly, but Uruguay had four players booked in the first half. Simone Pepe replaced Riccardo Montolivo at half-time, moving to a 4-3-3 the same way they had in Poland.
A Caceres sliding tackle blocked off Osvaldo in the box as he ran on to a Balotelli through ball. Balo was then booked for jumping with his elbow and realised he had come out for the second half wearing the wrong jersey, so had to change.
Gigi Buffon plucked a looping Edinson Cavani header off the line, but Italy finally had a wonderful scoring opportunity. Maggio got down the right and pulled across for Pepe’s first-time right-foot strike, beaten round the base of the near post for a corner with great difficulty by Muslera one-handed.
Maggio and Pepe combined again down that flank, this time the Napoli man’s rising angled drive over the bar. Pepe pulled back for Osvaldo to balloon well off target, then a promising Balzaretti-Balotelli move in the six-yard box was halted for an incorrect offside decision.
Uruguay were mainly defending after the break, but broke forward and saw Cavani’s blockbuster charged down by bodies in the box.
Balzaretti thought he was going to score the equaliser on 78 minutes when he knocked down a ball over the defence and got his shot away, but Muslera incredibly managed to turn it round the post with one hand. From the corner Giorgio Chiellini’s attempt was deflected inches past the upright for another set play.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Alvaro Pereira charged down Pepe’s cross with his hand and was perhaps harshly shown a second yellow card. From that Andrea Pirlo free kick, Balotelli nodded wide. Italy were pouring forward and introduced Giampaolo Pazzini for Marchisio, but Muslera was booked for time-wasting as the South Americans clung to their slender lead.
In stoppages Balotelli side-footed past the far top corner from outside the box, but there was also chaos at the other end with Cavani pouncing on a Buffon error.
Italy 0-1 Uruguay
Scorers: Fernandez 3 (U)
Sent off: Alvaro Pereira 80 (U)
Italy: Buffon; Maggio, Ranocchia, Chiellini, Balzaretti; De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio (Pazzini 82); Montolivo (Pepe 46); Osvaldo (Matri 65), Balotelli
Uruguay: Muslera; Caceres, Lugano (Coates 46), Godin, Alvaro Pereira; Maxi Pereira (Scotti 93), Perez, Rios, Rodriguez (Gonzalez 82); Fernandez (Alfaro 82), Cavani
Ref: Pereira Gomes (Por)