Mario Balotelli Lifts Italy Over Mexico in 78th Minute
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Mario Balotelli scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute to carry four-time World Cup champion Italy to a close 2-1 win over Mexico in Sunday's FIFA Confederations Cup showdown at the refurbished Estadio do Maracana.
Andrea Pirlo marked his 100th cap with a free kick for the Italians, who joined host Brazil on top of the Group A leaderboard with three points each. The Brazilians earlier blanked Japan, 3-0, in the opener Saturday.
"It was a convincing start," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "We faced a team that we respected, who are well organized and put us under tactical and physical pressure."
Javier Hernandez buried a penalty kick in the 34th minute for the Mexicans, who had drawn five of their previous six World Cup qualifiers.
Italy had a better start as Balotelli and Giaccherini got early scoring chances within the first eight minutes but Mexico gave them a wake-up call in the 11th minute as Guardado hit the woodwork.
In the 27th minute, Balotelli was fouled and Pirlo curled a free-kick over the wall into the left top half of the net past Jose Corona in the Mexican goal.
However, the lead was short-lived as Andrea Barzagli brought down Giovani dos Santos and Hernendez equalized by sending Buffon the other way in the 34th minute.
In the 78th minute, Giaccherini played the ball on for Balotelli, who beat the Mexican defenders and scored past Corona to put the Italians ahead.
Then, Balotelli was slapped with a yellow card for whipping off his jersey to celebrate. He was replaced by Alberto Gilardino in the 85th minute to avoid earning another yellow card.
Brazil blanks Japan in Confederations Cup match
Brazil opened the Confederations Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japan at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia.
Neymar stepped into a half-volley and drilled a perfect shot into the back of the net in the third minute to give Brazil and early lead.
In the second half, Paulinho scored with a great run forward from deep and a low strike on a cross by Dani Alves. Japan's goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima got a hand on the ball but couldn't collect the save.
Keisuke Honda nearly answered with a great free kick on target three minutes later, but Julio Cesar made the stop and Japan didn't generate too many other chances in the first half.
For the most part, Brazil looked content to pass their way to a 2-0 victory. But Jo, who entered in the 81st minute, netted Brazil's third goal after running onto a through ball from Oscar.
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