By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense put up a brave fight but eventually lost 5-3 to Italy in a World Cup warm-up friendly in Volta Redonda yesterday afternoon. After an even first half, the Europeans came racing out of the blocks in the second, scoring three goals in as many minutes to put the contest to bed.
It was Italy’s final friendly before they embark on their World Cup adventure this weekend. They have been drawn in Group D, alongside England, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Coach Cesare Prandelli opted to give his reserves a run out in the opening 45 minutes. What he saw cannot have given him a great deal of confidence, as Flu matched the four-time world champions, managing to go in level at the break despite falling behind twice.
Fluminense were without Diego Cavalieri, Wágner, Fred and Rafael Sóbis, but pushed Italy to the limit throughout the first half. After all, they could still count on playmaker Darío Conca, who was at the heart of all Flu created.
Insigne gave the Italians the lead on 23 minutes, only for Chiquinho to level two minutes later with a close range finish. On the half-hour, Immobile’s glancing header put Italy back in front. Yet Flu were spurred on by the 17,000 fans inside the Estádio Raulinho de Oliveira. And, after a neat link-up with Walter, Carlinhos’ drive was fumbled into the net by Perin to make the score 2-2 at the break.
At the start of the second half, Italy blew Fluminense out of the water. Goals on 53, 55 and 56 minutes, including two from Immobile to notch his hat-trick, gave Italy an unassailable 5-2 lead. Prandelli subsequently made nine substitutions, bringing on Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano for a run out. Then it was Flu who struck last, Mattheus Carvalho’s wonderful swerve and shot sailing past Mirante to end the scoring in a memorable friendly.
They had been without some of their biggest players, but Fluminense had done themselves and the Campeonato Brasileiro proud. Italy’s focus now moves to England, at the Arena Amazônia in Manaus, on Saturday.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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