Italy vs. Brazil: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

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Italy vs. Brazil: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

The Group A finale between Brazil and Italy in the 2013 Confederations Cup didn't influence much aside from seeding in the knockout stage, but don't tell that to A Selecao and their supporters as they celebrate their hard-fought 4-2 victory, according to BBC Sport.

Brazil dominated the first half and seemed to have things well in hand, but a game Italian squad simply wouldn't go away. Italy was able to pull to within one goal with less than 20 minutes remaining in the match and actually carried the play late, but the equalizer never came.

The loss was a disappointing one for Italy, but Azzurri won't fret too much as they are through to the semifinals along with Brazil.

The match opened with a huge flurry of chances for Brazil in and around Italy's 18-yard box. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a sparkling, diving save to keep the score 0-0 early, and Azzurri was ultimately able to weather Canarinha's offensive storm.

It took some time for Italy to truly get into the flow of the match, but it earned its first dangerous chance when midfielder Claudio Marchisio intercepted an errant pass and found striker Mario Balotelli in the box. Balotelli's deflection went wide in the 17th minute, though, and play carried on.

Neymar began to make his presence felt about 23 minutes into the match: He nearly found Fred for what would have been a sure goal, but the striker was offside. Neymar then had a chance of his own as he ran in wide on Buffon, but he was unable to deposit the ball into the net as he shot wide of the post.

The match lost some of its flow soon after, as several players succumbed to injury. It started with Italian midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, who left the pitch in favor of Emanuele Giaccherini.

He was followed soon after by defender Ignazio Abate, who appeared to have suffered a significant shoulder injury from Neymar, according to Fox Soccer Trax.

Brazil was then stung by the injury bug as defender David Luiz was taken off in the 34th minute. He had suffered a leg ailment earlier in the match and was working with a yellow card as well, so he was replaced by Dante, according to Kick TV.

Brazil continued to dominate the play, and it was finally rewarded in stoppage time. Neymar was fouled as he tried to chase down a lob, so he was given a free kick. The Barcelona phenom flashed his brilliance yet again as he placed a perfect ball into Italy's box.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

Fred headed the ball cleanly on net, but Buffon made a spectacular save. Substitute Dante was unmarked on the far post, however, and he made no mistake as he put Brazil up 1-0 just before halftime, according to FIFA.com.

Despite the dagger by Dante late in the first half, Italy was able to respond early in the second. Buffon booted the ball deep downfield, and the attack did the rest in order to allow Italy to pull even.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

Balotelli struck the ball with his heel while being marked, which allowed Giaccherini to approach Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar unmarked. The Brazilian defense allowed him to shoot from an angle, and he made them pay with a beautiful, far-post strike.

Italy's equalizer was only relevant for four minutes, though, as the brilliant Neymar put Brazil back on top in the 55th minute. He was hauled down just outside the 18-yard box and nearly awarded a penalty, but he had to settle for a free kick instead.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

Neymar was calm and confident as he beat Italy's wall then beat a helpless Buffon as he deposited the ball into the upper right corner.

Neymar's blast clearly fired up his teammates. They continued to carry the play and were ultimately rewarded for it. Brazilian defender Marcelo took the top off of the Italian defense and found Fred in between two Italian defenders.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

The speedy striker converted the opportunity by fighting off the defenders and gave Brazil what seemed like a commanding and insurmountable two-goal lead through 66 minutes.

In typical Italian fashion, though, Azzurri continued to push forward and refused to quit. Midfielder Antonio Candreva took a corner for Italy and the ball ended up in the back of the net off the foot of defender Giorgio Chiellini.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

There was some controversy involved, as Balotelli was hauled down in the box prior to the goal. The official seemed as though he was about to award a penalty kick, but he instead changed his mind and allowed the goal once he saw it beat Julio Cesar.

Italy kept pressing forward and threatened to tie the match on a couple of occasions. Brazil, however, put a stake through Azzurri's heart late as Fred deposited a Marcelo rebound past Buffon in the 88th minute.

That goal deflated Italy, and there simply wasn't enough time left for the Italians to mount yet another comeback.

*GIF courtesy of @TFDotCom

Brazil played safe soccer for the next two minutes plus stoppage time and ensured that it would win the match and Group A to boot.

 

Grades

Neymar (Brazil): A

Clive Rose/Getty Images

There has been a ton of hype surrounding Neymar throughout the Confederations Cup, and he proved worthy of that hype in this match. Many fans across the world are getting a chance to watch Neymar play for the first time, and he did not disappoint them on Saturday as he set up Dante's opening goal and scored a beautiful one of his own on a free kick.

Although Neymar is just 21 years of age, there is no question that he is among the best players in the world. Neymar has done something spectacular in each and every Confederations Cup match thus far, but he somehow seems to get better every time out.

 

Mario Balotelli (Italy): B-

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Balotelli needed to be a dominant force in order for Italy to win this match. He wasn't, but the loss doesn't fall squarely on his shoulders. Balotelli did have one spectacular moment as he set up Giaccherini's goal early in the second half with a tricky back-heel play to deaden the ball, but that was about it.

Balotelli had chances here and there and looked dangerous at times, but Brazil was largely able to contain him. He was never able to get into open space, and that is generally how he does his damage.

 

Fred (Brazil): A

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

The Brazilian striker was quiet early, but Fred was a huge deciding factor in this match by the time it was all said and done. His header at the end of the first half resulted in Dante's goal. Fred then managed two goals of his own in the second half, including the eventual game-winner as well as the goal that put it out of reach.

Fred's first goal was an impressive individual effort, as he had to run through two Italian defenders and fight one of them off. He was in the right place at the right time on his second goal, and that was enough to give Brazil the win.

 

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): D+

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Buffon has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world for a very long time, but Gigi simply didn't have it today, allowing four goals. There was nothing much he could do on a couple of the goals, but he did allow too many rebounds. Some of his saves were spectacular, but he needs to control the ball much better.

It's tough to blame Buffon, as Brazil's attack is something to behold. Even so, he will likely tell the media that he needs to be far better than he was. In order for Italy to win the Confederations Cup, Buffon will have to put this match behind him and play strong moving forward.

 

Italy

Player Position Grade
Gianluigi Buffon GK D+
Mattia De Sciglio LB C+
Giorgio Chiellini CB A-
Leonardo Bonucci CB C+
Ignazio Abate (30') RB D
Riccardo Montolivo (26') DM D
Alberto Aquilani DM C-
Claudio Marchisio AM C-
Alessandro Diamanti (73') AM C
Antonio Candreva AM C
Mario Balotelli ST B-

 

Substitutes

Player Position Grade
Emanuele Giaccherini (26') DM A-
Christian Maggio (30') RB C
Stephan El Shaarawy (73') AM C


 

Brazil

Player Position Grade
Julio Cesar GK B-
Marcelo LB B+
David Luiz (34') CB C-
Thiago Silva CB B+
Dani Alves RB C+
Luiz Gustavo DM C+
Hernanes DM B+
Neymar (69') AM A
Oscar AM B+
Hulk (76') AM C+
Fred ST A

 

Substitutes

Player Position Grade
Dante (34') CB A
Bernard (69') AM C
Fernando (76') AM C

 

What's Next?

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Both Brazil and Italy will move on to elimination play at the Confederations Cup, but Brazil should have a decidedly easier path. As the winner of Group A, Brazil will play the Group B runner-up, which will be Uruguay in all likelihood. That match certainly won't be an easy one, but it is better than the alternative from Brazil's perspective.

Spain stands to win Group B and will oppose Italy. As the defending World Cup and Euro champions, there aren't many teams that want to face Spain. La Roja flexed its muscles and decimated Tahiti by a score of 10-0 in its last match, so Italy is fully aware of what it is up against.

Considering how exciting this particular match was, there are plenty of soccer fans out there who wouldn't mind seeing a rematch in the Confederations Cup final. Both Brazil and Italy will have to hold up their end of the bargain, but they have played fantastic soccer in this tournament and have what it takes to go the distance.

 

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