Mario Balotelli scored a stunning goal as Italy came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Brazil in an entertaining friendly in Geneva on Thursday.
It looked as if Italy would pay for its missed opportunities when Brazil took a 2-0 halftime lead thanks to goals from Fred and Oscar.
Italy’s brisk start saw Emanuele Giaccherini force a difficult save from Julio Cesar after storming on the left, while Brazil’s first effort came on four minutes as Neymar found Gianluigi Buffon ready to deflect.
Balotelli had two shots deflected by Julio Cesar’s boot and a defender before Christian Maggio botched his flick off a deep feed from Andrea Pirlo. There was no hesitation from Fred, as he volleyed home a cross after a slight deflection from Leonardo Bonucci.
The Azzurri missed two more chances from Balotelli and Pirlo before a counterattack allowed Neymar to set up in the box Oscar, who again stunned Buffon by his left post.
After the break, Italy brought Alessio Cerci and Stephan El Shaarawy as forwards, and twice found the net in three minutes from De Rossi’s corner-kick flick and a majestic long-range strike from Balotelli.
A Neymar free-kick on the hour caused no problems for Buffon, while Balotelli was blocked in the box by Julio Cesar, who then watched a Bonucci header graze the right post as the defence again dithered on a corner kick.
Balotelli had one more effort deflected before giving room to Alberto Gilardino with seven minutes left.
“We played a great game, but we conceded two goals and it seemed to be over,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. “But we found our goals and stayed in the game, and then we did some interesting things.”
Brazil will tackle Italy again at the Confederations Cup in June as they host the eight-team tournament a year before the World Cup, which they are organizing.
There was a minute’s silence before the game in memory of Italian sprinter Pietro Mennea, who died Thursday.