Andrea Pirlo marked his 100th Italy cap by scoring a wonderful free-kick, but it took a second-half goal from Mario Balotelli to give Italy a 2-1 victory against Mexico and a flying start to their FIFA Confederations Cup campaign.
Juventus playmaker Pirlo opened the scoring after 27 minutes at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, curling a free-kick over the wall and high into the net. The Azzurri's lead lasted only seven minutes as Manchester United FC striker Javier Hernández equalised from the spot, but, 12 minutes from time, Balotelli sealed the win.
Italy started the game well and created opportunities for both Balotelli and Emanuele Giaccherini, while Mexico went close after 11 minutes when Andrés Guardado hit the crossbar. The Azzurri continued to shine, however, and they eventually went ahead when Pirlo made it a match to remember with a superb set-piece effort.
The scores were level again soon afterwards as Hernández sent Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way from the spot after Andrea Barzagli had fouled Giovani dos Santos. Italy pushed for another goal after the break, and although Riccardo Montolivo was denied by Corona, the Mexico goalkeeper could do nothing when Balotelli controlled a fine pass from Giaccherini and powered in from close range.
"I'm very happy, especially because of the way we played," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "Today we knew exactly what to do on the pitch. For Andrea [Pirlo] there are no words, only a big hug. We had already thanked him before kick-off for what he has done for this team."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.