Mexico 1-2 Italy: Pirlo and Balotelli one target as Mexico drops opener -


Mexico 1-2 Italy: Pirlo and Balotelli on target as El Tri drops opener

Jun 16, 2013 4:56:00 PMFIFA Confederations Cup
Goals from Italian legend Andrea Pirlo and star striker Mario Balotelli on either side of the half handed Mexico its first loss of 2013.A change in competitions couldn't change Mexico's fortunes for the better.

El Tri stepped away from World Cup qualifying and took a 2-1 loss to Italy to open up the 2013 Confederations Cup campaign for both nations at renovated Maracana Stadium on Sunday.

Mario Balotelli was the hero for the Italians by scoring the game-winning goal in the 78th minute, while teammate Andrea Pirlo had the opening goal of the match off a free kick early in the first half.

Mexico's Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez capitalized on a penalty kick for the equalizer in the 34th minute.

"We had a lot of moves when we were in good positions," Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said. "I believe we could have had better luck. Of course nobody likes to lose."

The Italians got off to a flying start and exposed a shaky Mexican defense in the early stages. Balotelli, Emanuele Giaccherini and Claudio Marchisio all tested Mexican goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona in the opening 10 minutes.

Italy's pressure finally paid off in the 27th minute when Pirlo, playing in his 100th match for the Azzurri, gave his side the lead with a brilliant free kick from 25 yards out, bending his effort over the wall and into the upper corner.

"I was dreaming of a free-kick goal," Pirlo said. "It was important to win the first match and now we have three days to recuperate. It's nice to be applauded in a legendary stadium like this."

Despite the dominance from Italy, the lead wouldn't last long.

Eight minutes later, Chicharito pulled El Tri back level from the penalty spot. Giovani dos Santos - back in his familiar starting role playing behind Hernandez - won the penalty when he stepped around Andrea Barzagli while pressure the ball and was brought down in Italy's box.

The goal was Hernandez's 33rd strike in just 50 matches for Mexico, and sent the match to the break with the score knotted at 1-1.

Mexico gifted Pirlo another chance from a free kick just after the break and almost paid for it again. This time the Italian legend kept his shot low and as it slipped under the leaping Mexican wall, it fell kindly for Riccardo Montolivo. The Milan midfielder had little time to collect himself before poking the ball at goal, but Corona was already off his line to make the save.

Another free kick for Pirlo in the 59th minute blazed narrowly wide of the mark, but Mexico was living dangerously early in the second half much as it had in the first.

El Tri held out until the 78th minute, but the defense finally fell short.

What looked like an innocent enough flick into the box gave
Balotelli a chance to spin on Mexico captain Maza Rodriguez, who was simply not strong enough to hold keep the Milan forward from rounding him and poking the ball past Corona for the winning goal.

"Mario has to stop showing off his muscles," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said of Balotelli ripping off his shirt to celebrate the goal. "The yellow cards count. Anyhow, well done."

While Mexico's form in 2013 has been poor, the loss to Italy was still the first suffered by the team this year, ending a 13-match run without a defeat.

The road doesn't get any easier for Mexico either, with a match against host nation Brazil on tap for Wednesday. Italy will be back in action that day as well, taking on Japan.

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