Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli scored as Italy got their campaign off to a winning start against Mexico
A sporadically entertaining game, better in the first half than the second, which the best team won. Mexico showed limited ambition and their one great chance was down to a defensive howler and some admirable attacking persistence, rather than any creative excellence. It must be said, though, that there could very well have been a red card at that point, which would have changed things most totally. Italy were good enough, but left themselves considerable room for improvement. No matter, the result leaves the Azzurri sitting pretty, with a match against an apparently fairly feeble Japan next on their agenda, and Mexico up against it and requiring a positive result against Brazil in Fortaleza on Wednesday, ideally a win.
It's been a whole barrel of fun. Thanks for sharing it with me. Byeeee!
Do Italy swing the ball into the box? They emphatically do not. Do they pass it up and down the right flank until the referee gives up and blows the whistle? They do.
90+3 mins: Most of the last minute has been spent waiting for Italy to take a throw-in. And then Salcido tries to kick the ball as it bounces near Cerci's chest, and the referee awards a charitable free-kick.
90+2 mins: …and then give the ball away as soon as they try to actually attack. Italy defending a one-goal lead. They seem unlikely to be punished on this occasion.
90+1 mins: Mexico faff about on the half-way line.
90 mins: The fourth official has indicated a three-minute stoppage-time action-bonus.
89 mins: Buffon touches the ball! It's Jimenez with a run, driving towards the penalty area and into the middle of the pitch, and his low shot from 20 yards is saved. Actually quite easily.
88 mins: That gives Mexico another striker. Now all they need is the ball. Italy bring Alberto Aquilani on for Emanuele Giaccherini, who has been sporadically impressive on the left.
87 mins: It was Jesús Zavala who made way when Jimenez came on.
85 mins: Mexico haven't managed to exert much pressure since the goal. But now, some substitutions: Gilardino replaces Balotelli – who gets a massive ovation – for the Italians, and Mexico bring on Raul Jimenez in a move that hasn't had a confirmatory TV graphic.
82 mins: Italy have kind-of-deserved this, based on this second half. They've had all sorts of territorial advantage, but very limited actual chances. Still, more than the Mexicans.
80 mins: Balotelli is booked for his shirt-off celebration. And De Rossi is also booked, for clipping someone's ankles on the half-way line.
That's like an ultra-stylish version of old-fashioned British route one stuff. Instead of the hoof from the keeper, it's a chip from midfield. Instead of a nod-on from the big lad up front, it's a spinning volley-flick from Giaccherini. And that leaves Balotelli to use his strength to beat the defender, and thunder the ball into the roof of the net.
77 mins: Dos Santos is released down the left again, and this time wins a corner. From which, someone pushes someone else and Italy win a free-kick.
76 mins: After extensive protestations from both teams, and minor treatment for De Rossi, the referee restarts play with a drop ball.
75 mins: Gerardo Flores wins a header, and cleans out De Rossi with a follow-up elbow/shoulder combo in the process.
72 mins: Pirlo takes a short corner, and gets the ball back again. He then takes the ball past Torrado, turns, takes the ball past Torrado again, turns, takes the ball past Torrado again, turns, and crosses not very usefully.
71 mins: Italy have had the better of this half, but have created very little, unless you could set-pieces.
70 mins: Andres Guardado crosses from the left, and Dos Santos, I think, wins the header and sends the ball wide of the near post.
69 mins: Dos Santos, in the corner and totally isolated, has no hope of doing anything very useful unless a defender kicks him in the ankles and gifts Mexico a free-kick. A defender kicks him in the ankles.
68 mins: Italy bring Alessio Cerci on for Marchisio.
67 mins: Corona catches yet another cross, this from Marchisio. It looks like Italy are readying a substitution.
65 mins: Mexico, who haven't done a whole lot of attacking of late, win a corner. It is easily cleared. "Sample commentary: 'Just hope Balotelli can keep his cool.' What? What is the point of watching Balotelli and wanting him to keep his cool?" asks Matt Dony. "He's the most entertaining man in the world! It's like going to see Dylan, and thinking 'Just hope he doesn't meander through some 15-verse songs that are completely different to the records." It's true – when you see Balotelli, you want to see fireworks. Literally. Either inside or outside bathrooms.
62 mins: The BBC commentators are convinced that Balotelli was assaulted. I'm still not.
60 mins: Hernández is fouled at one end, and Balotelli at the other, and neither gets anything from the referee. I'm not sure whether the Italian was pulled back, or whether he was guilty of a particularly cynical dive. And neither was Enrique Osses, the Chilean official, clearly.
59 mins: The foul might have been 23 yards out, but Pirlo places the ball another five yards further back, and the referee's not doing anything about it. This one goes around the wall, but flies a yard wide of the near post.
58 mins: And that's not great either, but after it's half-cleared Dos Santos fouls Abate 23 yards out, gets booked and presents Pirlo with another good shooting chance.
57 mins: It's not a great free-kick, from the left wing, and neither's the one Pirlo takes from the right wing a minute later. Still, Italy have a corner.
55 mins: Another free-kick for Italy, this one apparently for asking for a free-kick. In fact, Flores has been punished, extremely harshly, for handball. "Sorry BBC producers, but amount of Spidercam angles is going to make Mark Lawrenson more interesting to listen to. Even with a tan," says Justin Kavanagh. It's about this time every summer that I realise with mounting astonishment that the BBC still have no intention of refreshing their analytical line-up.
53 mins: Mexico take off Javier Aquino, and bring on Hiram Mier. And Italy nearly score, Pirlo's free-kick deflecting off the wall to Montolivo, who toe-pokes across but too close to the goalkeeper.
52 mins: Balotelli is pulled back by Rodriguez. Twice, really – once by the shoulder, and again by the shirt. So strictly speaking, that's two yellow cards. In the real world, it's none.
50 mins: Giaccherini's lovely run to the left byline comes to naught. Talking of the 2002 World Cup, and Mexico v Italy, we seem to have played 50 minutes of this match without linking to this goal. This is wrong. Sorry.
47 mins: Hector Moreno is booked for a foul on Balotelli on the half-way line. Not much of a foul, really. "I feel like I've seen the Italian national team downshift gears umpteen times when they've got a one goal lead, and then get punished for it," writes Kári Tulinius. "It's such a weird pattern and I feel like there must be some reason for it, but I'll be damned if I can think of a logical explanation." I was in the stadium for this goal, and remember thinking that it would surely cure the Italians of that particular malaise, but I've since been repeatedly proved wrong.
46 mins: They're off! Again!
Mark Lawrenson, in Recife, looks forward to tonight's late kick-off, Spain v Uruguay, for the BBC with the aid of a comedy camera angle, from above, zooming in and out and moving left and right. I can confirm, though, that Lawro looks well tanned.
Very widespread consensus is that Barzagli should have been sent off for the penalty offence. It's hard to deny that it was a clear goalscoring opportunity, particularly as he has a teammate to his right who he could have presented with an open goal. The referee has a reputation for being quite happy to brandish scarlet, so Italy should feel a bit grateful. And when I say "a bit", I really mean "very".
45+1 mins: Pirlo attempts another chip over the defence, this one also being over and beyond Mario Balotelli, and the whistle goes with Corona's goal-kick in the air.
45 mins: There will be at least one minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
44 mins: Another attack down the left ends with another aimless cross, from De Sciglio, which Mexico easily clear. I'm not really sure if these attacks are certain to reap inevitable dividends, or a total waste of time. Italy don't look enormously likely to profit from high crosses, though.
41 mins: And Italy nearly score from an attack down the right. Pirlo releases Abate with a straightforward pass that gets the commentators very excited anyway, and his low ball is cut out at full stretch by Corona, with Balotelli preparing himself for a tap-in.
40 mins: Italy work the ball in from the left, eventually finding Balotelli on the edge of the area, whose shot on the turn is accurate enough, but not powerful enough, and Corona collects.
39 mins: Montolivo's cross curls over Balotelli and floats out of play. Italy are attacking frequently down the left, and rarely from the right.
36 mins: The goal ended a spell of a couple of minutes when Italy, despite having a decent amount of possession, hadn't got out of their own half. Barzagli's error was a symptom of that lack of urgency.
Another goal from a dead ball, this time Chicharito sending Buffon the wrong way, and sending the ball low to his (Chicharito's) right, into the corner of the net.
33 mins: Barzagli dwindles on the ball, Dos Santos takes it off his does and gets a kick in the calf for his pains. The Mexican goes down, Barzagli is booked.
33 mins: I don't believe that Italy are just going to sit back and defend this lead, but they haven't done a great deal since the goal.
29 mins: Pirlo chips the ball over Mexico's defence to Giaccherini, who can't quite control. "Andrea Pirlo really looks like he should be playing villains in movies that do the rounds on the much underrated Sky channel Movies4men," writes Elliot Carr-Barnsley. "A place where film synopsis include phrases like '...must defeat the beautiful but deadly Dr. Kim'." It is not a channel whose output I'm familiar with, though from the sounds of that Dr Kim film I might have to check it out.
That is a splendiferous free-kick! Magnificent! From 30 yards he hits it over the wall with some pace, the ball dipping a foot under the bar as Corona gives up and withdraws his reaching arm.
27 mins: Balotelli goes down, and now Pirlo has a chance to shoot…
26 mins: In response to Ian McCourt's question (12 mins), Patrick Umsted submits this evidence that there is, indeed, someone who is unlikely to love De Rossi.
25 mins: A good run from Balotelli, who reaches the byline, but his pull-back is aimless and easily cut out.
23 mins: De Sciglio crosses from the left, and no Italian is remotely interested in it. The defender, not realising how much space he's in, concedes a corner, which Italy squander.
21 mins: Italy are starting to boss possession, while Mexico keep working the ball to Andres Guardado on the inside-left channel, and he keeps optimistically shooting.
17 mins: Giaccherini cross from the left, Pirlo picks the ball up on the edge of the penalty area, cuts onto his right foot and then goes down in a thicket of Mexican legs. He wants a penalty; the referee doesn't want to give one.
16 mins: …from which Dos Santos hits only the wall.
15 mins OK, so I'm coming to this a little bit late thanks to the weather in Wales today, and with Mexico having a decent opportunity to shoot from a 30-yard free-kick.
14 mins OK, folks, Simon is here. I'm off back to snoozing on the desk. Enjoy the game.
12 mins Question of the day: is there a reason not to love De Rossi?
11 mins It has been all Italy so far but Mexico have forced their way down the famous turf. Some good work from Dos Santos down the left sets up Guardado in the centre of the box. He shoots, oh how he shoots, but his effort goes off the top of the bar and Italy can breathe again.
9 mins The boys in the commentary box are
complimenting complaining about the ball already. Sigh.
7 mins The first effort on goal comes via Balotelli's left boot but the Milan striker aims his effort straight at Corona and Mexico clear their lines.
6 mins "Do you have any idea why the Italian team is constantly booed? Is the stadium full of Mexican supporters or do Brazilians hate the Italian national team?" wonders Kári Tulinius. Nope. Sorry. A few minutes ago I was dozing away on the sports desk and so I am very off the pace here. If anyone does know, do holler.
4 mins Italy pass the ball about just in front the Mexico box, the move looks promising until the referee blows his whistle for an offside against Giaccherini. Bad decision that he was clearly onside. Meanwhile, Balotelli has tried to chip Corona from about 40 yards out and, predictably, failed.
2 mins Cesare Prandelli's hair is a thing of wonder, no? Nothing on Pirlo's (who is making his 100th Italian appearance today) but still a thing of wonder. Nothing of note to report of just yet as the two sides feel their way into the game.
1 min: Mexico get us off. They are playing left to right with Italy doing the opposite.
Hi all, Ian McCourt here. That cricket business is still going on so I shall be typing you through the first few minutes of the match. You can hit me up on email@example.com or @ianmccourt.
Hi all, Simon has been a bit delayed over at the cricket but we are crossing fingers he will be ready in time for kick-off. While he types away at that, here are the teams for tonight's match.
Mexico: Corona, Rodriguez, Salcido, Flores, Moreno, Torrado,
Aquino, Zavala, Guardado, Giovani, Hernandez. Subs: Ochoa,
Reyes, Molina, Barrera, Reyna, De Nigris, Meza, Herrera, Jimenez, Torres, Mier, Talavera.
Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, De Sciglio, Abate, Barzagli,
Marchisio, De Rossi, Montolivo, Pirlo, Giaccherini, Balotelli. Subs: Sirigu, Maggio, Astori, Candreva, Aquilani, Giovinco, Gilardino, El Shaarawy, Cerci, Bonucci, Diamanti, Marchetti.
Referee: Enrique Osses (Chile)
I always wonder, when I read interviews with foreign sportsmen saying that Wimbledon is their favourite tournament, or Wembley the home of football, or Lord's the dream of every young cricketer – which they generally say when they're enjoying our hospitality and about to play at one of them – whether they're just buttering us Brits up, and when they're elsewhere they quietly say the same about the Bernabéu, or the Stade de France, or the Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella. But it must be true, because when he was asked about playing at the Maracanã yesterday, Mexico coach De la Torre said: "It's really emblematic to us all. Wembley, Maracanã – for anyone involved in football these are wonderful places."
Fills your heart with pride, doesn't it?
Welcome to the second match of the 2013 Confederations Cup, in which Italy are expected to give Andrea Pirlo a 100th cap, and Mexico are expected to man-mark him, or come up with some other spoiling tactic. "It's very nice to hear that a coach of another squad has his eyes on me but I'm used to that," he said. "And fortunately I don't play alone. We'll find a way to find the necessary solutions."
Mexico's coach, José Manuel De la Torre, is full of bravado despite his side's rubbish form in World Cup qualifying. "We came here to enjoy it, do our best and aim for nothing less than winning it," he tubthumped.
the first having been quite exciting, particularly to residents of the host country (Brazil, in case you missed it, beat Japan 3-0 with Neymar scoring a third-minute thundercracker). Here's a flavour of the latest Brazilian front pages – we've got Correio da Bahia, Lance!, Extra and Cães & Cia:
You can also listen to the first episode of our Confederations Cup daily podcast, starring James Richardson and Paul Doyle. I'll be on tomorrow, so if you think of something incredibly wise and witty, and vaguely pertinent, do drop me a line so I can use it and take all credit for myself. Cheers!