FIFA Confederations Cup: Italy 2 Brazil 4
By Football News
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 headed 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.