Italy were impressive in this friendly against Brazil in Geneva. Daniele De Rossi sparked Italy’s fightback and Mario Balotelli scored a superb second-half equaliser as the Azzurri battled to a 2-2 draw against an impressive Brazil in a friendly in Geneva on Thursday. It was only down to a good Julio Cesar performance and wastefulness in front of goal that Italy didn’t do even better against the Seleçao.
With this result, the Azzurri can put behind them their two most recent outings against Brazil (2-0 loss in a London friendly and a 3-0 defeat in the Confederations Cup in Pretoria, both in 2009). However, they still haven’t beaten them since the glorious victory at the World Cup in Spain in 1982.
The Italian national team seem to be making progress in good time for the Confederations Cup, and looking further ahead, the World Cup, also in Brazil in 2014. They are more balanced and able to impose their own game. As usual Brazil have great individual players, but they still need some fine tuning as a team. Brazil conceded plenty of space on the pitch and although they attacked dangerously, they defended riskily too.
Montolivo earned himself a starting place, while Giaccherini played behind the strikers in a curious experiment by Prandelli. It was Giaccherini, though, who created the first chance when he beat his man before firing in a near-post shot which Julio Cesar turned round for a corner. Brazil responded immediately: Buffon was forced to save a Neymar shot from outside the area.
A super Julio Cesar
Brazil’s team was full of striking options in the finest traditions of the Selacao. Scolari paired Fred with Neymar through the middle, with Hulk and Oscar out on the wings. Having never played for one of Brazil’s biggest sides, the expensive Zenit’s striker Hulk is often the target of heavy criticism in his homeland after poor displays. Unfortunately, Friday newspapers are sure to keep with this trend. One man who will be rubbing his hands with glee, though, is PSG’s Lucas Moura, who stands a good chance of inclusion once fully recovered from injury.
Lazio’s Hernanes played in a deeper midfield role alongside debutant Fernando, he was an assured presence throughout as he sought to construct Brazil’s playing patterns. His distribution was impressive and has been something Brazil have lacked with a midfield of Ramires and Paulinho. Both are incredible players, but neither can boast Hernanes’ range of passing.
After a few scares, Brazil opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a volley by Fred after a cross from the left had deflected to him off Bonucci. Balotelli tried to score but once again he was denied by Julio Cesar. Andrea Pirlo showed enough glimpses of his class to make even the Brazilians envious and was just wide with another effort. But Brazil were dangerous and able to do damage on the break. Neymar ran half the pitch with the ball at his feet before finding Oscar (who had advanced beyond De Sciglio) who put the ball past the advancing Buffon to make it 2-0. It was harsh on the Azzurri, who are still maybe a little fragile, but they can be tenacious when necessary and were by no means overrun by their illustrious opponents. At the end of the first period Osvaldo tried to put some gloss on his poor showing, but he was foiled by Julio Cesar who made sure his team went in two goals up at the break.
Cerci & El Shaarawy
As well as De Sciglio, Prandelli also gave Cerci his debut for the national side when he came on for Pirlo. El Shaarawy replaced Osvaldo. The Italians changed to a 4-3-3 in a variation of the 4-4-1-1 formation with which they started the game. Positioned on the right flank, Cerci was involved from the moment he came on and caused major problems for full-back Filipe Luis. The Torino forward was desperately unlucky not to finish the match with an assist to his name. A lovely whipped cross into the area found Balotelli, but the forward could not keep his header on target. There is plenty of competition for places within the Azzurri ranks, but Cerci should have shown enough to manager Prandelli to suggest he should be afforded more time against Malta next Tuesday.
Italy went close with El Shaarawy before De Rossi scored with a clever left-foot flick through a crowded area and into the bottom corner. His fourteenth goal in an Azzurri shirt gave his team more belief. Then Balotelli scored his well-deserved equalising goal with a marvellous right-foot strike from outside the area, his sixth for the Azzurri.
There was still time for Julio Cesar to make yet another great save from Balotelli in what turned out to be a great match. Italy continued to play well and Bonucci went close with a header. Brazil’s defending was generally unwatchable, De Rossi was injured, and it finished 2-2. Although they didn’t win, Italy deserved to be applauded for their performance.
The Azzurri face Group B opponents Malta on Tuesday while Brazil face Russia in a friendly on Monday in London.
Prandelli praises Balotelli
Since leaving Manchester City for his beloved AC Milan in January, the Italian striker has scored eight goals in eight appearances. His all-round play, for both club and country, has also been outstanding. It would appear that he is benefiting immensely from parting company with Roberto Mancini, with the pair seemingly harming each other toward the end of his spell at Eastlands. When at his best, he is a force of nature: tall, strong, fast and technically gifted.
Mario Balotelli earned lavish praise for his team spirit from Italy coach Cesare Prandelli following his performance in the 2-2 draw in a friendly against Brazil on Thursday. “I know how he really wants to be one of the best in the world but he has to remember how he can get there, and that is through team work,” Prandelli told reporters. “That is what he did tonight, like a true champion.”
The maverick striker has found a new lease of life since joining AC Milan from English champions Manchester City in January, scoring seven goals in six Serie A appearances. Prandelli, who demands impeccable behaviour from his players, has not always seen eye-to-eye with Balotelli and at one stage dropped the 22-year-old from the squad after the player foul of the Italy team’s code of ethics. “He has the potential to be among the best five (players) in the world but to do that he needs a lot of continuity, as he is having at the moment,” said Prandelli. “I trust Balotelli, he played as a team player tonight and always managed to keep the right balance between attack and midfield and he was a strong point of our team.”
Neymar Can Perform vs. Top European Sides
Scolari on Neymar; 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 defence.” The whole argument against Neymar was clearly not true, even if his recent showings against European sides had been poor. Anyone who has watched him week after week would tell you that. However, following recent criticism of his performances, the young Santos star had a point to prove against Italy and did just that.