Recife/Rio de Janeiro, 17 JUNE: First-half goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado were enough to give Spain a 2-1 victory over Uruguay in their Group B opener here while Mario Balotelli struck a 77th-minute winner as Italy began their campaign with 2-1 victory over Mexico in the Confederations Cup.
At Arena Timbu in Recife Sunday, Pedro opened the scoring in the 19th minute at Arena Pernambuco when his long-range shot deflected in off Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, reports Xinhua.
Soldado then made it 2-0 following a defence-piercing Cesc Fabregras pass before Uruguay striker Luis Suarez fired in a 28-metre free-kick three minutes from time.
"Even though the scores don’t show it, we dominated and should have won by a greater margin," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said after the match.
Earlier in the day at the Maracana in Rio, Mario Balotelli struck a 77th-minute winner as Italy began their Group A campaign with 2-1 victory over Mexico.
Balotelli ran onto Emanuele Giaccherini’s delicate lob to slide the ball in between two defenders and goalkeeper Jose Corona.
In front of 70,000 fans at the Maracana, Balotelli ran onto Emanuele Giaccherini’s delicate lob to slide the ball in between two defenders and goalkeeper Jose Corona.
Andrea Pirlo, in his 100th international appearance, scored Italy’s first in the 27th minute by thumping a 25-meter free-kick that curled into the top-left corner.
Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez equalized seven minutes later, coolly converting a penalty after Giovani dos Santos was brought down by Andrea Barzagli.
Italy dominated the early possession in front of more than 70,000 fans at the Maracana stadium.
Balotelli was the protagonist with three shots on goal in the first 10 minutes.
The AC Milan forward’s deft chip that narrowly flew over the crossbar was followed by two firmly struck attempts that were kept out by Corona.
Mexico responded by threatening on the counterattack and Andres Guardado was unlucky not to put his side ahead when his fizzing drive ricocheted off the crossbar.
Italy continued to assert their authority in the second half with Pirlo and, in particular, Giaccherini causing problems for Mexico’s defence with his pace and vision.
Second-half substitute Raul Jimenez had a chance to equalize in injury time but his low shot from the edge of the area was parried clear by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
‘Casillas was fit’
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque refused to be drawn Sunday on why he chose goalkeeper Iker Casillas in his starting lineup over Victor Valdez against Uruguay in their Confederations Cup opener.
Casillas had not played a competitive match since January and many predicted Valdez would be first-choice in goal for La Roja’s opening Confederations Cup Group B match, reports Xinhua.
"I have seen it fit (to play Casillas)," Del Bosque said after Spain’s 2-1 victory over La Celeste at Arena Pernambuco. "All three goalkeepers in our squad (Casillas, Valdez and Pepe Reina) are very good."
Despite having recovered from a hand injury in March, Casillas was overlooked by former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho for the remainder of the season in favor of Diego Lopez.
He was barely tested against Uruguay, Sunday, beaten only by a sublime Luiz Suarez free-kick two minutes from time.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he was frustrated with Mario Balotelli after the striker’s shirtless goal celebration in the Azzurri’s 2-1 victory over Mexico here in the Confederation Cup.
Chilean referee Enrique Osses cautioned Balotelli after the 21-year-old followed his 77th-minute winner Sunday by repeating the flexed-muscle pose he made famous during last year’s European Championships, reports Xinhua.
The AC Milan forward was immediately benched by Prandelli and the pair exchanged heated words on the Maracana stadium touchline.
"We have already spoken a lot with him," Prandelli said during the post-match press conference.
"Everybody knows how muscly he is. He doesn’t need to take his shirt off anymore to show everybody."
Under Confederations Cup rules, two yellow cards during the Group stage prompts an automatic one-game suspension.
Prandelli said Balotelli had apologised for the incident, claiming he was not aware of the tournament’s rules regarding cautions.
Balotelli had previously earned the wrath of the coach following his red card during Italy’s 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
Despite bemoaning Balotelli’s latest show of indiscipline, he also praised the former Manchester City star’s concentration during Sunday’s match.