Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Mario Balotelli's strike 12 minutes from time lifted Italy to a 2-1 victory over Mexico in Confederations Cup group A play on Sunday at the Maracana Stadium.
Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring for Italy, but the goal was canceled out by a penalty kick from Javier Hernandez for Mexico. But it was the much-maligned Balotelli who scored in the 78th minute to assure a full three points for his side.
The result pulls Italy into a tie with Brazil for the top spot in group A with three points, while Mexico and Japan sit on the bottom of the group.
Both sides had ample scoring opportunities in the first half, but it was Pirlo who gave Italy the 1-0 lead in the 27th minute when he curled a beautiful right-footed free kick over the wall and into the top left corner of the net, leaving Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona with no chance for a save.
Six minutes later Mexico got back into the game when forward Giovani Dos Santos was pulled down in the penalty area by Italian defender Andrea Barzagli, resulting in a spot kick.
Hernandez stepped up to the spot and calmly fired it into the bottom right corner, sending Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way to put the sides back on level terms.
But the Italians found a winner 12 minutes from time as Emanuele Giaccherini used a deft right-footed touch to flick the ball over the heads of the Mexico back four.
Balotelli was there to latch onto the ball, fend off a pair of defenders and fire it into the net to make it 2-1.
Both teams will be back in action on June 19 when Italy faces Japan and Mexico locks horns with Brazil.
In Sunday's group B Confederations Cup match, Spain held on for a tense 2-1 win over Uruguay.
Spain dominated possession for almost the entire 90 minutes and collected the game's first goal in the 20th minute as a right-footed volley from Pedro deflected off the leg of a Uruguay defender and wound up in the back of the net to make it 1-0.
12 minutes later, Spain struck again through Roberto Soldado, who collected a deft pass in the box and ripped it into the net to make it a two-goal margin.
But Uruguay kept at it and finally pulled one back two minutes from time when Liverpool man Luis Suarez ripped a beautifully-struck free kick into the top left corner of the net to cut his side's deficit in half.
Uruguay pressed for an equalizer following the goal, but with only minutes remaining, the South Americans were never able to produce a tying goal.
Spain, which will resume Confederations Cup play on June 20 against Tahiti, moves to the top of group B, while Uruguay will shoot for a bounce back performance against Nigeria, also on June 20.