Brazil 4 (Dante 45+1, Neymar 55, Fred 66, 89)
Italy 2 (Giaccherini 51, Chiellini 71)
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador. Temp. 27°C, wind 6 mph, scattered clouds. Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz (Dante 34), Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Hernanes, Oscar, Fred, Hulk (Fernando 76), Neymar (Bernard 69).
Italy: Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, Abate (Maggio 30), De Sciglio, Aquilani, Montolivo (Giaccherini 26), Marchisio, Candreva, Diamanti (El Shaarawy 72), Balotelli.
Brazil beat Italy 4-2 in an exciting final Group A game in Salvador to secure first place in the group, meaning that Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team will probably now avoid Spain in the semi finals. It was a scrappy first half, but the goals started to flow in the second period as both teams went for the win and Brazil eventually got the better of their opponents thanks to some fine attacking play and party due to some uncharacteristic sloppy goalkeeping from Gianluigi Buffon.
The first half was a scrappy stop-start affair littered with mistimed tackles in which there were four bookings and three players were forced off injured. Neither team managed to settle into their rhythm and there were no goals until stoppage time when a free kick from the Brazilian left found its way through to substitute Dante, who slotted home from beyond the far post. Dante, who had replaced the injured David Luiz just after the half hour mark, recorded his first goal for his country and it was a popular strike with the locals in the stadium as he hails from Salvador.
Italy found their way back into the game with a classic route one goal in the sixth minute of the second half when Buffon hit a long clearance upfield. It was headed on to Balotelli, who flicked it into space behind the Brazilian backline with an impudent backheel which set substitute Giaccherini free down the right. He took the ball into the box and made no mistake with a driven shot into the far side of the net before the covering defenders could get back to close him down.
However, Italy were only on level terms for four minutes as Neymar won and scored a free kick to keep up his record of having scored in every game so far in this tournament. It was a bit harsh on Italy as the striker appeared to run into Maggio’s leg rather than being tripped, but the free kick was struck spectacularly in to the far corner past a static Buffon, who ought to have done better. Italy came close with a free kick of their own from Balotelli, who shot powerfully towards the top corner from way out, but Julio Cesar was equal to it and a few minutes later Brazil broke to make it 3-1 through Fred.
There was much controversy surrounding Italy’s second of the game in the seventy first minute when Chiellini scored following Candreva’s corner. The referee blew for an apparent penalty for a foul on Balotelli at the same time as Chiellini hit his shot towards the far post but when the ball ended up in the back of the net, the Uzbek official changed his mind and awarded the goal rather than the spot kick. There hadn’t really been enough time between the whistle and goal for anyone to react and stop playing, but by the letter of the law it should have been a penalty to the Italians and protesting Brazilian players surrounded the referee, but in vain.
Italy came close to levelling the score with ten minutes remaining when Maggio got his head on the end of another Candreva corner from the right and sent the ball crashing into the crossbar with Julio Cesar well beaten. Having survived that scare, Brazil saw out the last few minutes and wrapped it up at the death when left back Marcelo broke through and tested Buffon with a low shot to the near post that the ageing goalkeeper could only push back into the path of the advancing Fred, who made no mistake with a simple tap in.