Friendly draw leaves Italy with more to smile about.
by Sean Taylor
It seemed that Super Mario upstaged Neymar as the boy wonder on this calm spring evening in Geneva. Along with Daniele De Rossi, Balotelli muted the Brazilian celebrations and even had the chance to turn the match on its head later on.
The Brazil opener came as a sucker punch. Fred tapped in expertly but it was completely against the run of play as Italy dictated early proceedings. Oscar nonchalantly prodded home the second on the stroke of halftime after Neymar’s driving run put him through.
The second half belonged to Italy however; Buffon was reduced to spectator. De Rossi reigned in the Brazilian lead nine minutes after the restart. Then Balotelli, rejuvenated since his return to Milan, sent a mere heat seeker past Júlio César. The Brazilian net-minder had his work cut out for him as the Milan striker’s angled shot was closed down with exigence. The match ran its course with the draw seemingly a fair result when you consider the lack of endeavour overall.
The five-time World Champions will feel fortunate to escape defeat as they were on the ropes and out of ideas at the final whistle. Apart from the assist, Neymar was anonymous; his usual buzzing skill wasn’t even part of the plot. Hulk didn’t seem overly interested except when the opportunity to blast the ball into the crowd presented itself. When the Brazilian fans began strumming their famous rhythm in the second half, it seemed only they were aware that this match needed some Samba.
Brazil looked too raw at times in attack. Scolari has his work cut out for their match against Russia, far more for summer’s Confederations Cup. Italy meanwhile go into their next match against the Maltese confident of acquiring three qualifying points.