Balotelli gives Pirlo-inspired Italy win
17 June 2013, 12:04
Brasilia - Mario Balotelli scored the winner and Andrea Pirlo, capping a
majestic 100th international appearance by scoring with a 30-metre free
kick, provided the inspiration as Italy beat Mexico 2-1 in their opening
Confederations Cup match on Sunday.
Pirlo's goal was entirely worthy of the hallowed Maracana, which
provided the perfect stage as he became the fifth Italian to reach a
century of full internationals.
The 34-year-old brought the fickle and notoriously difficult-to-please
Maracana crowd to its feet as he curled the ball over the wall and into
the top corner in the 27th minute from distance.
The crowd chanted Pirlo's name before and after the goal, the rarest
honour for a foreign player on a stage previously graced by the likes of
Garrincha, Pele, Zico and Romario.
"I don't have words to describe Pirlo, he's an example to everyone," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters.
Balotelli's goal was more about power as he latched on to Emanuele
Giaccherini's flicked pass, barged past defender Francisco Rodriguez and
fired the ball past Jose Corona with 12 minutes to go.
Javier Hernandez had replied for Mexico with a penalty seven minutes after Pirlo's masterpiece.
Balotelli, whose notorious temper had been bubbling under the surface
for most of the second half, took his shirt off in celebration, earning a
yellow card and a reprimand from his coach.
"He wanted to take his shirt off and show his muscles, but all the
yellow cards count," said Prandelli, who has previously suspended
Balotelli for indiscipline with former club Manchester City.
"But he played well and didn't let anyone get to him. He was attentive for the whole game and has shown strength of character."
Balotelli said he did not realise that he was not allowed to take off his shirt.
"I didn't know the rules, I won't do it again," he told Italian media.
The defeat heaped more pressure on Mexico's under-fire coach Jose Manuel
de la Torre, whose team have been held to draws at home by Costa Rica,
Jamaica and the United States in World Cup qualifying.
The match was again played against the backdrop of teargas and rubber
bullets as riot police confronted protesters outside the Maracana
A similar demonstration had marred Saturday's opening match between
hosts Brazil and Japan in Brasilia. The protests are against the amount
of public money being spent on staging the event and next year's World
Balotelli had a couple of early chances for Italy while Mexico's Andres
Guardado shaved the crossbar after mistake by Ignazio Abete in a lively
start to the Group A encounter.
Pirlo, always at the heart of the action, had a penalty turned down
before bringing the Maracana to its feet with his 27th-minute goal.
Mexico levelled seven minutes later when Andrea Barzagli was
dispossessed by Giovani dos Santos and then barged over the Mexican
forward. Hernandez sent Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way from the penalty
Pirlo then produced an outrageous reverse pass to release Abete on the
right, the move ending when Balotelli's effort was blocked by Corona.
Pirlo's free kicks continued to cause trouble after the break and he
curled another effort just wide of the post from a similar position to
his goal. He also craftily rolled another free kick under the Mexican
wall, leaving Riccardo Montolivo with a free shot which was blocked by
Italy grabbed the winner when Giaccherini cleverly flicked the ball into
the penalty area where Balotelli held off Rodriguez and fired the ball
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