Italy and Brazil played out an absorbing 2-2 draw in Switzerland on Thursday evening that warrants comparison with some of the most memorable clashes between these two great footballing nations.
Despite having the better of a thrilling first half, the Azzurri went in two goals down at the break, after being rocked by wonderfully taken goals from Fred and Oscar. However, Cesare Prandelli's men came storming back in the second half and after Daniele De Rossi had halved Brazil's advantage with a clever flick, Mario Balotelli earned Italy a thoroughly merited share of the spoils with a sublime curler.
It was the least Italy deserved. They had edged what was a refreshingly open start to this high-profile friendly, with both Emanuele Giaccherini and Balotelli drawing fine saves out of Julio Cesar. However, sandwiched in between those efforts was a stunning show of pace from Neymar, who breezed past Leonardo Bonucci before unleashing a well-struck shot which Gianluigi Buffon did well to parry around his right post.
Still, with Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in the middle of the park, it was the Azzurri who exhibited the greater control and cohesion early on, and they went closest to breaking the deadlock at the end of the opening quarter.
Pirlo picked up possession in midfield and created some time and space for himself with a superb hand-off on Neymar, before playing the most sublime pass in behind Filipe Luis for Christian Maggio. The full-back took the ball in his stride but his close-range effort on goal was weak and Julio Cesar saved with his chest.
However, despite their obvious superiority in midfield, Italy fell behind just after the half-hour mark, an inexplicably unmarked Fred calmly volleying home at the far post, after Filipe Luis' cross from the left wing had taken a slight deflection off the head of Bonucci.
Credit to Italy, though, they refused to wallow in self-pity and came storming back, with Balotelli testing Julio Cesar with a fine drive from the edge of the area before Pirlo sent a left-footed curler spinning just wide.
But they were left reeling by a second sucker punch just before the break. Neymar was released into space just inside Italian territory and the Santos starlet cleverly cut across Pirlo before slipping in Oscar with a brilliant reverse pass. The Selecao No.10 took care of the rest, coolly prodding the ball past Buffon with the outside of his right foot.
Prandelli responded to the shock of conceding a second goal against the run of play by sending Stephan El Shaarawy on in place of Pablo Osvaldo during the half-time interval, as well as replacing Pirlo with Alessio Cerci. El Shaarawy made an immediate difference, linking well with Balotelli before being denied by Julio Cesar from an acute angle.
From the resulting corner, De Rossi halved Italy's deficit with an innovative flick of his right boot. Less than three minutes later, the Azzurri were level - and in even more spectacular style, Balotelli curling the ball past Julio Cesar from all of 25 yards out.
Incredibly, Italy should have then moved ahead just after the hour mark, but after instantly controlling Riccardo Montolivo's deflected strike, Balotelli volleyed straight at Cesar. They missed another glorious chance on 67 minutes when an unmarked Bonucci glanced a near-post header just wide.
The Azzurri continued to pile on the pressure in the closing stages but, despite the best efforts of El Shaarawy, they were unable to find a winner, which was probably no bad thing given that football deserved to be the only winner on the night.
|M. De Sciglio|
|D. De Rossi||54'|
|Coach: C. Prandelli|
for A. Pirlo 46'
for P. Osvaldo 46'
for E. Giaccherini 68'
for M. De Sciglio 74'
for D. De Rossi 81'
for M. Balotelli 83'
|West Ham expect Collins to return for pre-season|
|Real deny Pogba bid|
|Important to keep Chelsea squad together - Mourinho|
|Alonso: Gerrard was magic|
|Pochettino silent on Ings speculation|
|Visa threatens to ´reassess´ sponsorship amid FIFA scandal|
|Blatter skips FIFA Medical Conference|
|MLS Preview: Revs not out for revenge against Galaxy|
|MLS Review: Sounders go top in West, Timbers and Galaxy win|
|AFC stands by Blatter|
|Matheus ´alright´ after collapse - Markevych|
|Copa Libertadores Review: River, Inter through to semis|
|Signing Toni a ´long shot´ for Adelaide|
|Ramsey good enough for Barca - Coleman|
|Bacuna pushing for Benteke stay|
|Evans stunner settles City friendly in Toronto|
|Banega: Emery a great coach|
|Emery tight-lipped on Sevilla future|
|Argentina finalise Copa America squad|
|Nike issues statement following arrest of FIFA officials|
|Hero Bacca grateful for Europa League triumph|
|Markevych rues defensive errors in Dnipro defeat|
|AFC Champions League Review: Naft Tehran fairytale continues|
|Emery: We deserved Europa League success|
|Dnipro 2 Sevilla 3: Bacca brace sees holders make history|
|South Africa 0 Malawi 0 (4-5 on penalties): Harawa heroics send Bafana Bafana out|
|CONCACAF and CONMEBOL respond to arrests in FIFA scandal|
|FIFA president Blatter welcomes investigations as corruption probe rocks world football|
|UEFA calls for FIFA elections to be postponed|
|BREAKING NEWS: Advocaat exits Sunderland and retires from club management|
|La Liga: Real Madrid season review - Ancelotti pays the price for disappointing season|
|Zambia 3 Ghana 0: First-half spree does the damage|
|Barnes suffers double knee ligament injury|
|Balotelli to stay at Liverpool - agent|
|Kane at the double in friendly win|
|Norwich make Dorrans switch permanent|
|Ings unsure of next move|
|Bournemouth snap up Federici|
|FIFA ´crisis´ cannot continue - Prince Ali|
|Barton headlines QPR exits|
|Juan demands more from Inter|
|Stoke snap up Haugaard|
|Subotic commits to Dortmund|
|Warner pleads innocence after US indictment|
|Napoli to refuse questions on Benitez´s future|
|USDoJ names indicted FIFA officials|
|Wenger coy over Vidal and Benzema moves|
|Suarez back in training ahead of Copa final|
|Pique: I´ll retire at Barca|
|Gerrard ´blown away´ by Liverpool send-off|
|FIFA ´very happy´ with Zurich arrests|
|Liverpool defender Toure targeting trophies|
|Ramsey eyeing title assault|
|Welbeck out of FA Cup final and England matches|
|FIFA the ´injured party´ as Swiss prosecutors open criminal proceedings|
|Prince Ali saddened by FIFA arrests|
|Pellegrini to make City defence a priority|
|Labbadia giving Lasogga, Olic, Jiracek time|
|Ramsey confident on Wembley chances|
|Swiss authorities confirm FIFA arrests|
|El Shaarawy open to Premier League move - agent|
|Reports: FIFA officials set to be arrested|
|Tigres UANL 2 Emelec 0 (2-1 agg): Mexicans through to Libertadores semis|
|Valencia ruled out of Copa America|
|Coleman: Bale being ignored by Real team-mates|
|Ruddy eyes England recall|
|Benteke will strike fear into Arsenal - Westwood|
|Howe named LMA Manager of the Year|
|Casillas reiterates desire to stay in Madrid|
|Dnipro players pay for fans´ tickets, transport|
|Galliani: I want Ancelotti back at Milan|
|Premier League: Manchester City season review - Frustrations as latest title defence falters|
|Injured Benfica star Salvio not for sale|
|AFC Champions League Review: Al Sadd suffer last-16 exit|
|Emery targeting historic victory|
|Toure and Wisdom pen new Liverpool deals|
|Stadium facilities drive Van Gaal potty|
|Blatter brushes off Figo´s ´dictatorship´ claims|
|Mavuba to end career at Lille after extending contract|
|Ipswich´s Bishop charged over betting breaches|
|Markevych admits to Dnipro nerves|
|Relegated Almeria to be deducted three points|
|Reims retain Guegan on one-year deal|
|Di Matteo departure could hinder Schalke swoop for Khedira|
|Bale planning Real Madrid stay|
|Del Bosque not prepared to risk Costa|
|West Ham earn Europa League berth|
|Pellegrini sure City will win title back|
|Low calls Herrmann into Germany squad|
|Gerrard will win trophies with Galaxy - Carragher|
|Frankfurt agree to let Schaaf leave|
|Hernandez hit with violent conduct charge|
|Bale set for 50th Wales cap against Belgium|
|Baines hoping for pre-season return|
|Bournemouth sign Boruc|
|Sevilla duo Rico and Vidal handed Spain calls|
|Premier League: Chelsea season review - Mourinho´s men canter to title|
|Speroni hints at possible Palace exit|
|Kane states Tottenham commitment|
|Boruc, Hooiveld leave Southampton|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain desperate to make FA Cup final|
|Roar turn to Aloisi|
|Di Matteo resigns as Schalke coach|
|Hughes hints at Moses return|
|Wenger hits out at scheduling|
|Terry backs Chelsea to dominate|
|Jets part ways with coach Stubbins|
|Kewell would love to manage Liverpool|
|Janmaat: Newcastle players failed Carver|
|Adelaide step up interest in Toni|
|Chelsea´s Drogba interested in MLS move|
|Otamendi wants to leave Valencia - agent|
|Benitez almost certain for Real job|
|Schneiderlin will leave for Champions League club|
|Kane planning to come back bigger and better|
|Moyes staying at Sociedad|
|Neil revels in Norwich promotion|
|Drogba interested in MLS move|