Daniele de Rossi sparked Italy’s fightback and Mario Balotelli scored a superb second-half equalizer as the Azzurri battled to a 2-2 draw against Brazil in an international friendly on Thursday.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side, hosts of next year’s World Cup, came into the match looking for a win following a 2-1 loss to England last month.
Any doubts Scolari may have had about Brazil on their travels evaporated by the interval after Fred and then Chelsea attacking midfielder Oscar scored one apiece to give Brazil a 2-0 lead.
Italy turned the tables after the break, with De Rossi reducing the arrears in the 54th minute and Balotelli pulling his side level only three minutes later with a fine, curling effort which beat Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
“I saw a lot [of] positive things,” said Scolari, who is still looking for the first win of his second spell in charge of Brazil.
He also had kind words for Santos striker Neymar after recent criticism.
“Tactically, Neymar played well, probably his best match for Brazil. We had him as a second striker and he made life difficult for Italy’s defense,” Scolari said.
While Brazil do not participate in qualifying for the World Cup, Italy sit top of Group B on 10 points, four ahead of second-placed Bulgaria, with the Czech Republic in third a further point adrift.
The Azzurri face Group B opponents Malta on Tuesday, while Brazil face Russia in a friendly on Monday in London.
“We played a good match against a team which has the potential to be great,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. “We were 2-0 down at halftime, we don’t quite know how, but the important thing is we didn’t lose our composure and we always looked to score.”
While Scolari opted for a formidable three-man attack in Fred, Neymar and Hulk, with Ronaldinho left at home, Prandelli’s pre-match plans were upset when Claudio Marchisio pulled out late through illness.
AC Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo stepped in, with Juventus’s Emanuele Giaccherini the link man for Balotelli and AS Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo up front in a 4-3-1-2 formation which Italy tweaked after the interval.
Italy started brightly, with both Giaccherini and Balotelli forcing early saves from Cesar, and then Osvaldo coming even closer when he headed over from Balotelli’s cross on the left.
Those missed chances proved costly when defender Andrea Barzagli headed a cross from the left toward the back post, where Fred, unmarked, beat Gianluigi Buffon with a coolly-taken volley after 33 minutes.
Andrea Pirlo, with a curling effort that went just past Cesar’s far post, and Balotelli again spurned chances and Italy were made to pay when Oscar slipped the ball past Buffon with the outside of his right boot after a calm layoff by the impressive Neymar.
Prandelli tweaked Italy’s formation after the break, with Stephan El Shaarawy replacing Osvaldo and Alessio Cerci making his debut replacing Pirlo.
De Rossi sparked the fightback, the Roma midfielder poking home from close range after the ball fell kindly following a corner.
Balotelli’s leveler three minutes later was a fine effort, the striker charging toward the edge of the penalty area, before unleashing a superb drive which looped over Cesar and into the top corner.
Indian police are investigating an alleged betting scandal in which a sham cricket tournament was held in an Indian village and passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka. Players portrayed as Sri Lankan cricketers played two matches on Monday last week that were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube, media reports said, along with ball-by-ball coverage on top Indian sports Web sites. The organizers hung Sri Lankan advertisements at the ground for added authenticity and put up tents to block the view from outside the remote rural venue, set in farmland next to a busy highway. Police said that they
Taipower on Sunday charged to their third straight win and took over first place in the Taiwan Football Premier League as previous leaders Taichung Futuro suffered their first defeat of the season, while Hang Yuan rallied from two goals down to complete a thrilling 3-2 victory over National Taiwan University of Sport (NTUS). Heading into the 10th round of matches, unbeaten Taichung Futuro led the league with 21 points, but they fell to their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Tatung at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung. In a match in which both defenses were on top and there
Thailand international Pitsamai Sornsai, a new arrival for Inter Taoyuan, is to lead her team against Taipei Bravo tomorrow in the 10th round of the Taiwan Mulan Football League. Sornsai, who is nicknamed Pui, has attracted interest from media and fans as the first foreigner signed to play in Taiwan’s women’s league. Inter are among six teams battling for the title this year. The addition of Sornsai is a boost for the international profile of women’s soccer in Taiwan and elevates the competition. The 31-year-old brings a wealth of experience, including from the Asian Football Confederation’s Women’s Championship, the Southeast Asian Games and
HOTSHOT: Luis Suarez scored his 194th goal for Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez and Lionel Messi With another decisive penalty from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid on Sunday extended their perfect run after the COVID-19 suspension and moved closer to their first Spanish title in three years. Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barcelona after assists from Lionel Messi. Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty to give Madrid their seventh straight victory and they remain the only team with a perfect record since La Liga resumed. “These three points are very