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FIFA Confederations Cup

Pirlo the peerless, Spain sublime

Andrea Pirlo of Italy celebrates
© Getty Images

THE DAY REPLAYED –The history of the beautiful game is made up by the efforts of some fine footballers, many of who we have had the privilege of gracing the Maracana. And on the day that Andrea Pirlo won his 100th cap for Gli Azzurri at the famous Brazilian stadium, he scored his side’s opening goal with a superb free-kick. But it wasn’t just about the goal. Pirlo made the art of passing look easy and prompted his side’s attacks from his deep-lying midfield position, winning the Man of the Match Award from admiring football fans around the globe.

In the day’s second game on the second day of the tournament, Spain gave a lesson in how to pass, move and create chances as they maintained their unbeaten record against Uruguay. In truth, it was difficult for the 2011 Copa America winners to get near them. It was always going to take something special to end the world champions’ run of five matches without conceding at a major tournament and Luis Suarez’s fantastic curling free-kick from distance was just that.

Group A
*Mexico 1-2 Italy *(Hernandez 34, Pirlo 27’, Balotelli 78’)
Group B
*Spain 2-1 Uruguay *(Pedro 20’, Soldado 32; Suarez ‘88’)

What it means…
Although Italy’s confidence will be boosted by the win over Mexico, they would do well to recall what happened in the previous edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup when they defeated USA in their opening game, only to lose their next two games and head home early. Mexico, meanwhile, have to go back 12 games and to 2011 for the last time they tasted defeat in a competitive game. However, El Tri have no reason to fear their next opponents Brazil - in their 11 games since the turn of the century they have won six and drawn two. 

The world and European champions will be expected to give Vicente del Bosque his 62nd win in his 73rd match in charge of Spain since taking charge in 2008 against Tahiti, while Uruguay will have a sterner test of their credentials against Nigeria. La Celeste will be hoping to find their form against the Africans in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Goal of the day
Andrea Pirlo (ITA)
On the day that Pirlo became the fifth Italian player (and their first midfielder) to reach a century of caps, he crowned the occasion with a fine goal. After Gerardo Flores had fouled Mario Balotelli 30 yards from goal, the 34-year-old pulled seniority by taking the ball from Balo and gave his young team-mate (and the watching crowd) a masterclass by hitting as perfect a free-kick as you will see. With superb technique, he curled the ball into the top corner, giving Jose Corona no chance. The final score also kept up the remarkable record of Italy not losing a game when the Juventus midfielder is on target.

Stat of the day
4 –
With his strike against Mexico, Italy No9 Mario Balotelli is the fourth player at the FIFA Confederations Cup to have a shirt number which is the same as the current total of goals for his country. Gerardo Torrado (6), Aldo De Nigris (9) and Diego Godin (3) are the others.

Quote of the day
"It's very difficult to generate any kind of danger when you don't touch the ball. Spain is the best in the world and they're a contender to win the World Cup,"Luis Suarez, Uruguay forward.

What’s next?...
Following today’s double header, we revert back to just one game tomorrow, the match-up between Nigeria and Tahiti in Group B. The Super Eagles only arrived in Belo Horizonte in the early hours of Sunday morning following their FIFA World Cup qualifiers last week, while Tahiti were the first team to arrive in Brazil.

Tweet of the day
A tongue-in-cheek tweet from Gary Lineker, an adidas Golden Boot winner at Mexico 1986.

Spain are still quite good!

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 16, 2013

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