Mario Balotelli hit the winner for Italy after Andrea Pirlo scored on his 100th appearance to give the Azzurri a 2-1 victory over Mexico in the Maracana Stadium Sunday in their opening Group A match of football’s Confederations Cup.

Balotelli struck 12 minutes from time after Mexico had responded to a sumptuous Pirlo free-kick in the 27th minute with a Javier Hernandez penalty seven minutes later.

AC Milan striker Balotelli used his strength to turn past Franciso Rodriquez after a quick knock-on from Emanuele Giaccherini to strike the ball into the net for a win that moves Italy level on three points with Brazil, who defeated Japan on Saturday.

Pirlo marked his century of caps with a glorious free-kick from 25 metres out after a foul on Balotelli, hitting a curling shot over the wall into the top right-hand corner past the dive of Jose Corona.

Hernandez levelled when he sent keeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way from the spot after Andrea Barzagli lost the ball on the edge of the area and then clipped Giovane dos Santos for a penalty and a yellow card.

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