Brazil 2-2 Italy: Azzurri come roaring back in second half to draw in sensational encounter
Italy drew 2-2 with Brazil on Thursday evening in a glorious friendly encounter in Geneva.
Cesare Prandelli’s men were largely the better side in the first half, but fell to a 2-0 deficit at the hands of Fred and Oscar. However, a toe poke from Daniele De Rossi and an incredible strike from Mario Balotelli in the span of two minutes just after the break brought the peninsula’s heroes level in a scintillating high tempo game.
The first chance of the match fell to the Azzurri, Emanuele Giaccherini gathering a wonderful long ball to skip past David Luiz and force a good save out of Julio Cesar at the near post.
The Brazilians soon hit back with a chance of their own, Gianluigi Buffon having to beat away Neymar’s rocket from distance after a strong run from the young starlet.
De Rossi picked out Mario Balotelli in the area with a sumptuous lofted ball from midfield, but the keeper got down well to deny the AC Milan man at close range.
Hernanes misfired under pressure from De Rossi, whilst Balotelli’s low curling effort was tipped just round the upright by the outstretched foot of David Luiz.
The end-to-end action continued at a blistering pace as Fernando blazed a free-kick just wide and Pablo Osvaldo headed just over the bar from a difficult position.
Italy’s midfielders were firing on all cylinders with excellent distribution, Andrea Pirlo playing Christian Maggio in behind the defence via another ball of utmost pulchritude, but the Napoli man scuffed his shot and the chance went begging.
Riccardo Montolivo went over the bar from distance as Italy looked by far the more dangerous side, but Brazil would soon take the lead against the run of play.
On 33 minutes Leonardo Bonucci could only head on Felipe Luis’ cross from the left channel, the ball running to the unmarked Fred at the far post who volleyed past Buffon with the side of his foot to put the Selecao on top.
The Azzurri came back with a pair of chances soon after as Julio Cesar parried away Balotelli’s rocket from 20 yards, whilst Pirlo curled just beyond the upright with his left foot.
Only minutes later Prandelli’s men would find themselves further down, Oscar finishing with a toe poke to the bottom right hand corner after a great run by Neymar created space in the area.
The Italy tactician made a pair of changes at half, bringing on Stephan El Shaarawy and Alessio Cerci for Osvaldo and Pirlo respectively whilst making the tactical switch to a 4-3-3 formation.
The Torino winger, on his full international debut, didn’t take long to make an impact with a perfect cross for Balotelli but the Rossoneri striker could only head over.
Moments later Balotelli utilised a deft backheel to play El Shaarawy through, but Julio Cesar denied the 20 year-old from a tight angle.
The Azzurri finally broke through on the ensuing corner however, as De Rossi produced a well-taken flicked finish after Montolivo’s poor delivery had run across the face of goal.
It wouldn’t take long for the ceremonial visitors to equalise, as just two minutes later Balotelli teed up a wonder-strike from 20 yards, picking his spot to beat the keeper with a picturesque curling finish and sensationally pull the boys from the peninsula level.
Some classy interplay on the right wing saw Balotelli go in on goal alone, but Julio Cesar rushed off his line to block away Super Mario’s half-volley with his feet.
Bonucci nearly snatched the lead from his glancing header on Montolivo’s corner, whilst Andrea Poli came on for Giaccherini and Fred made way for Diego Costa.
Balotelli was stopped only by a crucial block from Dante after some great work by Cerci, with Marcelo coming in for Felipe Luis.
Buffon made a crucial catch from a dangerously delivered free-kick, but De Rossi was injured in the process and was forced off for Alessandro Diamanti as Balotelli too departed for veteran Alberto Gilardino.
Cerci and El Shaarawy each tried their hand from distance, but were both slightly off target as the Azzurri continued to search for a winner.
Neymar stepped up to take a free-kick from a dangerous position after Montolivo hacked down Kaka, yet could only fire straight into the wall.
Neither side could ultimately find a winner as they continued to attack relentlessly as time wound down, as the two heavyweights of world football eventually settled for a draw.
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