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'
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Santa Fe, Itagui held at home|
|Serie A Preview: Roma face huge test, Juve host Bologna|
|Liga MX Preview: Cruz Azul out to break Morelia drought|
|MLS: New York Red Bulls 2 Philadelphia Union 1|
|Copa Argentina Wrap: Talleres Cordoba, Defensa y Justicia advance|
|Ancelotti: Barca era not over|
|Martino unwilling to change Barca style|
|Barca confirm Alba hamstring injury|
|Ancelotti delighted with first Real trophy|
|Ki sidelined for up to two weeks|
|Pellegrini: Title race not over|
|Arsenal will drop points, insists Martinez|
|Guardiola hails Bayern fight after reaching final|
|Pulis hails battling Palace players|
|Poyet happy to avoid ´heart attack´|
|Coupe de France: Guingamp 3 Monaco 1|
|City haunted by Liverpool defeat - Pellegrini|
|Copa del Rey: Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 2|
|New MLS franchise for Atlanta|
|Del Nero elected CBF president|
|Premier League: Manchester City 2 Sunderland 2|
|Premier League: Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3|
|DFB-Pokal: Bayern Munich 5 Kaiserslautern 1|
|AFC Champions League Wrap: Pohang Steelers reach last 16|
|Krueger hopeful on Pochettino stay|
|La Liga Preview: Atletico Madrid v Elche|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Ajaccio facing relegation, Monaco aim to cut gap at top|
|Milan announce losses|
|Gradel relishing ´magical´ World Cup experience|
|Sturridge could make Norwich trip|
|Cibulkova, Mayr-Achleitner secure progression in Malaysia|
|Valencia desperate to keep Bernat|
|Lerner praises Cowans, Given|
|Championship Preview: Title glory in sight for Leicester|
|Conte talks set for end of season|
|Arrasate pens new Sociedad deal|
|Malanda to miss Wolfsburg run-in|
|Duff plans for Fulham departure|
|Buffon hails driving force Tevez|
|Garcia happy to wait on contract talks|
|Dejagah calls on fans to help with survival push|
|Kane backs Tottenham´s home-grown talent|
|No offers for Kroos, says agent|
|League One Preview: Brentford on the brink of promotion|
|Aluko admits to doubts over future|
|Hearts closer to exiting administration|
|Callejon: No regrets over Real exit|
|Blanc backed by PSG president|
|League Two Preview: Scunthorpe eye promotion while relegation battle heats up|
|Rode vows to succeed at Bayern|
|Poyet bemoans injury woes|
|Messi is mentally fatigued, says former Barca coach|
|Pellegrini has no regrets over Kompany|
|Olsson confident of fitness ahead of City test|
|Deschamps: We must proves ourselves at the World Cup|
|Milan must trust in youth, says Maldini|
|Martinez: We have that winning mentality|
|Jenkins: We need to survive and regroup|
|A-League Preview: Victory, Mariners favourites to stay alive|
|Beckham´s Miami stadium plans face opposition|
|Casillas, Real full of confidence|
|K-League Preview: Jeonnam, Jeonbuk do battle|
|CONCACAF Champions League: Cruz Azul 0 Toluca 0|
|Dortmund relieved to beat Wolfsburg|
|Arsenal sack Alfaro|
|Mineiro lose patience with tardy Anelka|
|Unfinished Sao Paulo stadium handed to Corinthians|
|Ranieri ignoring speculation|
|Giroud regaining confidence, says Wenger|
|Poyet: ´I´m not going to quit´|
|Allardyce laments costly defensive errors|
|Wenger delighted with Arsenal spirit|
|Coupe de France: Rennes 3 Angers 2|
|Football League Wrap: Barnsley off the bottom, Luton promoted|
|AFC Champions League Wrap: Guangzhou suffer shock defeat, Yokohama beat Jeonbuk|
|Premier League: Arsenal 3 West Ham 1|
|DFB-Pokal: Borussia Dortmund 2 Wolfsburg 0|
|Dyer: Bust-up claims blown out of proportion|
|Gundogan extends Dortmund contract|
|Laudrup backs Messi to shine in Copa final|
|Pellegrini: Liverpool defeat changes nothing|
|I have picked most of Italy squad - Prandelli|
|Mannone must wait for contract talks|
|Alex confident on new PSG deal|
|Wilmots signs four-year Belgium extension|
|Liverpool unites for Hillsborough anniversary|
|Nuremberg confirm Ott signing|
|Amalfitano keen on Premier League stay, says agent|
|Reinartz undergoes Achilles surgery|
|Villa suspend two backroom staff|
|Guardiola reveals Neuer doubt|
|Ancelotti urges Real to cut out errors|
|Fulham have seen the light, says Richardson|
|Chelsea interest in Costa ´normal´ - Simeone|
|Martino: Puyol could return against Real|
|Toure out for two weeks|
|Ronaldo to miss Copa del Rey final|
|Allardyce reveals Drmic scouting mission|
|Iniesta ´convinced´ of Copa del Rey success|
|Hillsborough behind emotional Gerrard reaction|
|Premier League to investigate Cardiff leak claims|
|Juve continue Scuffet praise|
|Returning players can aid survival, says Brunt|
|Martinez cools Barkley rumours|
|We do not go to Munich to swap shirts - Runjaic|
|Pulis eyes permanent deal for Ince|
|Ireland pens new Stoke deal|
|Llorente, Giovinco not getting carried away|
|Allardyce: Emirates expense behind Arsenal slump|
|Gago´s World Cup hopes hit|
|Treat Norwich like best team in the world, says Gerrard|
|Guidolin: Juventus were the better team|
|Sammer issues Bayern warning|
|Montanier warns Rennes ahead Angers clash|
|Berlusconi blocked Chelsea transfer, says Pirlo|
|Guzan: Villa desperate to reward fans|
|Anelka´s future remains unclear|
|Grobbelaar still haunted by Hillsborough disaster|
|Hecking: Wolfsburg can hurt Dortmund|
|Schuster questions Malaga´s effort|
|Paraguay Division Profesional Wrap: Libertad maintain unbeaten run|
|Inter confirm Torres interest|
|Pirlo: I thought about quitting|
|Swansea play down ´brawl´ reports|
|MLS Preview: Red Bulls, Timbers near breakthrough win|
|La Liga: Athletic Bilbao 3 Malaga 0|