World champions Spain have got off to a winning start at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, beating Uruguay 2-1. Earlier, Italy defeated Mexico by the same score.
The Spaniards, who will be seeking to defend their World Cup title in Brazil in one year’s time, dominated play from the opening kick-off in the Pernambuco Arena in Recife on Sunday.
It took a full 20 minutes though for Spain to draw first blood, and they needed a bit of luck to do so, as Pedro’s shot was deflected past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera by defender Diego Lugano.
Twelve minutes later, Cesc Fabregas shimmied away from a pair of defenders before playing the ball through to Pedro Soldado, who drilled the ball into the roof of the net to double the Spanish advantage.
Sign of life from Uruguay
The Uruguayans, whose, ball possession was just 29 percent in the game, came alive somewhat after coach Oscar Tabarez brought on veteran striker Diego Forlan for Diego Perez with 20 minutes left to play.
Two minutes from time, Luis Suarez drove home a curling free kick that beat Spanish keeper Iker Casillas to make the final score much closer than the balance of play.
The win puts Spain - which is looking to add the Confederations Cup to its trophy case, and which already includes the 2010 World Cup and back-to-back Eurpopean Championships - at the top of Group B with three points.
Italy beat Mexico
In Sunday’s early match, played at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli stole the show as Italy edged out Mexico 2-1. After the two sides traded first half goals, Balotelli powered through the late-game winner for the Italians.
The two teams traded shots early on in the evening, but it was Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo (pictured) who was first to find the back of the net.
The midfielder marked his 100th cap for his country with a fantastic free kick in the 27th minute. From just outside the left edge of the box, he curled the ball past the wall and into the top corner of the net, leaving goalkeeper Jose Corona helpless to stop the shot.
Not eight minutes later, Mexico were handed the opportunity to equalize. After giving the ball away to Andres Guardado, Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini brought him down in the box. Chilean referee Enrique Osses blew his whistle and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez calmly dispatched the penalty. The goal was his 33rd in 51 international matches.
Balotelli wins it
After halftime, Mexico struggled to stay on par with Italy. The Azzuri controlled the majority of possession and when Balotelli's moment came in the 78th minute, it felt deserved.
After Emanuelle Giaccherini flicked the ball into the box, Balotelli powered his way past Mexico's Hector Moreno and beat two other defenders to poke the ball into the goal. Stirring up memories of Germany's Euro 2012 semifinal defeat to Italy, Balotelli was given a yellow card for removing his shirt while celebrating the winner.
It was a moment of relief for the Italian striker, who had been frustrated by the Mexican defense all night.
Italy held on for the remaining 15 minutes, preventing Mexico from putting a threatening chance on target, and the match finished 2-1.
Brazil and Italy now sit atop Group A with three points each.
pfd,dr/lw (AFP, AP)
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