Italy vs. Brazil  2 - 4


Referee admits Confederations Cup mistake

23 June 2013 22:17

Referee Ravshan Irmatov has said he was wrong to allow Giorgio Chiellini’s goal in Italy’s loss to Brazil in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

The Uzbekistani official appeared to award a penalty to Italy after a foul from a corner in the Group A match on Saturday, but Chiellini put a shot into the bottom corner of the net immediately after and Irmatov gave the goal.

Brazil’s players protested furiously, pointing out that the referee had already blown his whistle and FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola confirmed Irmatov admitted to his mistake, even though the decision made no impact on the outcome of the game as Brazil won 4-2.

"(It was) a technical mistake,” Odriozola said. “He has also admitted that, once you blow the whistle you have stopped play, you cannot give the advantage.

"He doesn't want to give make excuses, but he explained what the situation was like for him.

"It was very quick, while he was blowing (for the penalty), out of the corner of his eye, he saw the goal could be scored, (then) the goal was scored. He was thinking quickly and he did not want to give any excuses.”

Despite acknowledging that he had made a mistake, Irmatov will not necessarily be sent home according to Odriozola.

He added: "Without analysing the performances, (FIFA refereeing chief) Massimo Busacca said referees are humans and make mistakes just like anyone else, like players or strikers might miss a clear scoring chance.”


Neymar a football genius, says Scolari

23 June 2013 04:47

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has hailed Neymar as a genius following his star turn and wonder strike against Italy on Saturday.

The 21-year-old scored a brilliant free-kick in Brazil's 4-2 triumph in Bahia, giving the host nation three wins from three to seal top spot in Group A, meaning they are likely to avoid a semi-final clash against Spain.

Bayern Munich defender Dante also got on the scoresheet for Brazil, who had a second-half brace from Fluminense striker Fred to thank for the victory.

Scolari was delighted with the form of Neymar, who left Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon stranded with his breathtaking strike.

"He is the hero of every Brazilian and of everyone who loves football," Scolari said.

"He had some great moves today. People who have that genius can make a difference.

"He saw that Buffon took a step to the side and he knew that he was going to hit it in the corner."

Brazil's most likely semi-final opponents will be Uruguay, who face Tahiti in their final Group B match, and Scolari said his team is ready for the challenge.

"We are not ready for what we will face in the World Cup but we're ready for the (Confederations Cup) semi-final," Scolari said.

"We have good quality and our tactical game is quite well established."


Prandelli disappointed after Brazil defeat

23 June 2013 00:02

Cesare Prandelli cut a despondent figure after his side were beaten 4-2 by Brazil in their final group match of the FIFA Confederations Cup.

After falling behind to a late first-half strike from Dante, Italy levelled the match through Emanele Giaccherini just after the break.

However, two goals from Fred and a sensational free-kick from Neymar sent them to defeat despite a Giorgio Chiellini consolation strike giving them hope at 3-2.

Starting Saturday's game without Andrea Pirlo or Daniele De Rossi meant Italy had a new some new faces in the centre of midfield, and their ranks were depleted further as they lost Ignazio Abate and Riccardo Montolivo through injury in the opening half-hour.

Italy were equal to Brazil in the opening 45 minutes but after their equaliser the hosts raised the tempo, catching Prandelli's side off guard.

However, despite their defeat in Salvador, the coach praised his team's fighting spirit.

"We had a great performance in the second half and deserved an equaliser, but against great players it takes nothing for them to punish you,” he told Rai Sport. "I am very satisfied, as we played the second half with great character. The reaction was excellent, we attacked the space and on 3-2 we could’ve drawn level.

"We were forced into two early changes, so it was tough, but after the break we saw our system and it worked."

The defeat means Italy finish second in Group A behind Brazil, and will face the winners of Group B in the semi-final.

That means an encounter with world and European champions Spain in Fortaleza on Thursday, and Prandelli knows it will be a tough encounter for his side given the last time they met, Spain won 4-0 in the 2012 European Championships final.

"We are looking for growth and these games help us grow a great deal," he added. "Spain are the best team in the world, so if we face Spain then we will recover our fitness levels and play Spain.”


FIFA Confederations Cup: Italy 2 Brazil 4

22 June 2013 23:14

Neymar's sensational free-kick helped Brazil to a win over Italy that sees them secure top spot in Group A of the FIFA Confederations Cup.

The Barcelona forward fired in from 18 yards in the 55th minute to set the match alight. It seemed impossible to get the ball over the wall and beyond Gianluigi Buffon from such close range, but the 21-year-old continued his brilliant form in the tournament to power his shot into the top corner before the Italy captain could react, despite the fact the keeper was perfectly positioned.

A meagre first half saw very few chances until Dante opened the scoring in injury time with his first goal for Brazil, the Bayern Munich defender tapping home after Fred had seen his header saved. However, the second period could not have been more different as both sides found their shooting boots.

Italy substitute Emanuele Giaccherini levelled after a sublime flick from Mario Balotelli before Neymar's strike, and Fred then added a double for Brazil before Giorgio Chiellini grabbed a consolation for Cesare Prandelli's side.

Luiz Felipe Scolari made one change to his starting line-up, Paulinho was sidelined with an ankle sprain so Hernanes was given a rare start. Prandelli was forced into two changes to his side, with Daniele De Rossi sitting out through suspension and Andrea Pirlo suffering from a calf injury. Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva replaced the pair.

Neither goalkeeper was called into action in the opening 45 minutes as both sides struggled to create any clear chances, with a lot with fouls being given away all over the pitch.

However, in the first minute of injury time, the home nation broke the deadlock through Dante. A Neymar corner was header at goal by Fred, Buffon pushed the ball away but only as far as the defender - who had replaced the injured David Luiz - and he slotted home for his first international goal.

The second half began at a much faster pace and Italy levelled the game six minutes in through Giaccherini. The midfielder made an excellent run beyond Balotelli, the forward holding off the challenge of Dante and flicking the ball into the path of the Juventus man. He controlled it perfectly and fired the ball low across Julio Cesar into the bottom corner.

Italy were only level for four minutes though as Neymar produced a moment of sheer quality for his third goal in as many games in the Confederations Cup. He was fouled by Maggio on the edge of the area and he nonchelantly fired the ball into the top corner, leaving Buffon a helpless bystander on his goal line.

Their lead was extended just after the hour when Fred showed the quality he has as a lone striker. Marcelo played a floated pass into the forward 20 yards from goal, he controlled it on his thigh, held off the challenge of Chiellini and lashed the ball into the back of the net to put them in prime position to top the group.

Chiellini added a consolation for Italy in the 71st minute, the defender profiting from a goalmouth scramble to pass the ball into the back of the net. Alberto Aquilani rolled the ball back to the Juventus man, and he made no mistake.

Brazil controlled the closing minutes of the game and secured top spot through Fred's second from close range after Buffon had spilled Marcelo's strike. The host nation's victory is an important one as it means they avoid a clash with world champions Spain in the semi-finals.


Italy 2-4 Brazil: Fred fires Selecao to top spot in Group A

22 June 2013 18:03

Brazil sealed top spot in Confederations Cup Group A with an action-packed 4-2 victory over old rivals Italy in Salvador on Saturday night.

The Selecao dominated the opening 45 minutes but only made the breakthrough in injury time at the end of the half, with Dante firing home. Italy drew level in emphatic fashion through Emanuele Giaccherini just after the interval only to see Brazil quickly reassert their supremacy with equally fine strikes from Neymar and Fred.

The Azzurri, though, should have snatched a draw, with an unmarked Christian Maggio heading against the bar shortly after Giorgio Chiellini had dragged Cesare Prandelli's men back into the game, and they were punished for their profligacy by Fred, who netted his second of the game in the dying minutes.

Italy had initially picked up where they had left off against Japan: in complete disarray defensively. Indeed, Brazil twice went close to opening the scoring inside the opening three minutes, with Chiellini making desperate last-ditch challenge to stop Oscar, before Gianluigi Buffon had to get down well to keep out a low, angled strike from Hulk.

Italy did their utmost to weather the early storm and even carved out an opening for themselves 18 minutes when Claudio Marchisio drove forward down the left wing before pulling the ball back for Mario Balotelli, who badly scuffed his shot, resulting in the easiest of saves for Julio Cesar.

However, Italy were still being overrun in midfield and Cesare Prandelli unsurprisingly elected to make a first-half substitution for the second game in succession, sending Emanuele Giaccherini on in place of Riccardo Montolivo, with the dynamic Marchisio dropping back into midfield alongside Alberto Aquilani.

Sadly, the Azzurri were forced into a second change before the half-hour mark, with Ignazio Abate suffering a shoulder injury after being cynically taken out by Neymar, who, just moments beforehand, had been felled by the AC Milan full-back.

Even the crowd began to get tetchy the longer the half wore but the tension was broken just before the break, with Dante, on as a replacement for the injured David Luiz, exhibiting impressive composure in coolly slotting home the rebound, after Buffon had pulled off a terrific save to keep out a close-range header from Fred.

The second half looked set to continued in much the same vein as the first, with Brazil bossing possession and territory, and the hosts could even have doubled their advantage within a minute of the restart, but Oscar shot too tamely at Buffon, after the ball had dropped for the Chelsea ace on the edge of the area.

However, Italy then levelled out of nowhere. There appeared to be no danger when Buffon punted the ball long, but Antonio Candreva headed it on before Balotelli acrobatically flicked into space for Giaccherini. The much-maligned utility man appeared to hesitate for a second but he then unleashed a blistering drive from just inside the area that gave Julio Cesar no chance.

Order was restored almost immediately, though, with Neymar deceiving Buffon with a terrific free kick, after the Brazilian No.10 had himself been taken down on the edge of the Azzurri box.

Balotelli almost replied in kind on the hour, but his long-range set piece was fumbled away to safety by Julio Cesar. As it was, it was Brazil who struck next in an increasingly chaotic encounter, with Fred finishing in style, after his run in-between Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci was expertly picked out by Marcelo.

Italy were not done yet, though, and they set up a frantic finale when the ball dropped for Alberto Aquilani in the six-yard box, allowing him to tee up Chiellini, who scuffed the ball into the bottom left corner of the Selecao goal.

Maggio then crashed a header against the bar as Italy finished the stronger but they were caught cold on the break late on, with Fred on hand to convert after Buffon had been unable to hold onto a shot from Marcelo, meaning the Azzurri will most likely face Spain in the semis.


Italy-Brazil Preview: Azzurri seek to end 30-year winless streak against the Selecao

20 June 2013 17:18

With top spot up for grabs and a potentially difficult clash against Spain to avoid, both Cesare Prandelli and Luiz Felipe Scolari are unlikely to make too many changes as they seek three valuable points.

Having picked up yellow cards against both Mexico and Japan, Daniele De Rossi is suspended for the Azzurri whilst Andrea Pirlo is ruled out with a calf injury.

Claudio Marchisio and Alberto Aquilani are likely to deputise in the duo's absence whilst Prandelli must also decide who to play behind Mario Balotelli.

The 55-year-old coach could opt to rest Emanuele Giaccherini with Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Diamanti and Sebastian Giovinco, who scored the winning goal against Japan, all vying for starting berths.

As for Brazil, David Luiz has been declared fit to start despite breaking his nose in the 2-0 win over Mexico and there is further good news for the Selecao as the in-form Neymar has shaken off a slight thigh injury.

However, Paulinho is unlikely to be risked by Scolari after the Corinthians midfielder suffered a minor ankle sprain and his place could be taken by Lazio's Hernanes.

Elsewhere, Hulk has failed to impress in the opening two matches and his spot on the right wing could be taken by PSG youngster Lucas Moura as Scolari looks to give some of his younger players international experience.

Italy have not tasted victory against the Selecao for over 30 years. A Paolo Rossi hat-trick guided the Azzurri to a 3-2 win in the 1982 World Cup.

A double from Luis Fabiano (pictured, right) and an own goal from Andrea Dossena gave Brazil a 3-0 victory over Italy in the 2009 Confederations Cup - a tournament they later went on to win.

A 2-1 victory against Mexico before Wednesday's 4-3 thriller against Japan ensured that Italy advanced to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup for the first time in their history.

Current holders Brazil are the most successful side in the history of the tournament, with Luiz Felipe Scolari's team bidding for their fourth title.

The Selecao famously defeated the Azzurri on penalties to win the World Cup in 1994.

Brazil have only suffered one competitive defeat on home soil in the last 50 years - a 3-1 defeat to Peru in Belo Horizante at the 1975 Copa America.


FIFA Confederations Cup Preview: Brazil v Italy

20 June 2013 16:26

Top spot in FIFA Confederations Cup Group A is at stake when Brazil take on Italy at the Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova on Saturday.

The teams go into the match having won their two opening fixtures, and will be keen to seal first place in the group so as to avoid a likely semi-final meeting with world champions Spain.

Brazil kicked off their campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japan and followed that up with a rather less convincing 2-0 victory against Mexico, which was only sealed by Jo's goal in the dying seconds.

Italy, meanwhile, began the tournament with a 2-1 win against the Mexicans before emerging 4-3 victors in a thrilling encounter with Japan on Wednesday.

The sides last met in March, and shared a 2-2 draw as second-half goals from Daniele De Rossi and Mario Balotelli cancelled out strikes from Fred and Oscar in the first period.

However, that fixture was played on the neutral ground of Switzerland, and Brazil will be roared on by a partisan home crowd when the pair do battle again.

If they are to capitalise on that advantage, the hosts will need Barcelona new-boy Neymar to continue his fine run of form.

The 21-year-old has scored superb goals in each of Brazil's first two fixtures and also provided an eye-catching assist for Jo in the win over Mexico.

But, as proved by their win over Japan in a game they had hardly contributed to, Italy are an incredibly difficult team to beat.

Cesare Prandelli's men have not lost a game since suffering defeat at the hands of France in November 2012 - a run that accounts for eight games.

They also boast the talents of Balotelli among their ranks, with the Milan striker equalling Neymar's record of netting in both of his side's opening games.

With all-conquering Spain looking likely candidates to win Group B having already beaten their main rivals for supremacy, Uruguay, these sides will be eager to ensure they do not finish second in order to avoid meeting Vicente del Bosque's team until the final.