Monday Kickoff: Balotelli leads Italy over Mexico; Spain outclasses Uruguay; and more

Monday Kickoff: Balotelli leads Italy over Mexico; Spain outclasses Uruguay; and more

South American Soccer

Monday Kickoff: Balotelli leads Italy over Mexico; Spain outclasses Uruguay; and more

MarioBalotelliItalyMazaRodriguezMexico1 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Though his status was in doubt before the match, Italy forward Mario Balotelli made sure his presence was felt on the field and from those watching around the globe.

Balotelli raced onto a flicked ball in the box in the 78th minute, using his strength to muscle past Javier “Maza” Rodriguez and then lightning-quick speed to pounce on the ball to score the game-winner. Balotelli’s heroics earned Italy a 2-1 victory over Mexico in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo put the European Cup runners-up on the board first in the 27th minute with a brilliant curling free kick that gave Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona no chance to save. It was only seven minutes later though that Mexico would equalize, as Javier Hernandez converted a penalty kick after teammate Giovani Dos Santos was taken down.

Mexico seemed on the brink of getting yet another draw, but there was nothing they could do to stop Balotelli when he had his final chance of the match, being substituted just minutes later to a rousing ovation. Next up, Mexico take on Brazil and Italy face Japan on June 19.

Here are some more stories to get your Monday kicked off:

CLASSY SPAIN TAKE DOWN URUGUAY

Spain answered nearly every question critics had posed in the recent months.

In beautiful style, Spain took down Uruguay, 2-1, in Recife at the Confederations Cup, showing off the classy possession soccer that has come to identify Barcelona FC and the Spanish National Team.

Spain scored both of their goals in the first half and made Uruguay look like a U-16 team against a group of internationals. Spain midfielder Xavi completed 68 first-half passes, equal to the amount of completed passes by the entire Uruguayan team in the opening stanza. In addition, Spain held the ball 78 percent of the time and completed 449 passes to Uruguay’s 68.

Cesc Fabregas nearly opened the scoring for Spain, though his 10th minute strike careened off the post. Spain wouldn’t be denied in the 20th minute, as a long range shot from Pedro took a deflection and whistled in for a goal. Soldado added Spain’s second of the match from just inside the box on a terrific feed from Fabregas in the 32nd minute.

Uruguay saved face in the 88th minute when Luis Suarez scored on a 30-yard free kick, but it was too little too late for the South American nation who were taken apart over the course of the 90 minutes. Up next, Spain face Tahiti and Nigeria take on Uruguay on June 20.

ARSENAL MAKE RECORD BID FOR HIGUAIN

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has identified a need for more forwards next season, and is willing to pay a larger than normal price to ensure bringing in a quality player.

In order to win Real Madrid’s favor, Wenger has reportedly put in a bid of more than $31 million for forward Gonzalo Higuain, who is also rumored to be headed to Juventus in Serie A. Higuain is Wenger’s top target, and it looks likely that Arsenal will break their transfer record to bring the Argentine international in for next season.

Last season at Madrid, Higuain was rotated with Karim Benzema, starting just 19 times in La Liga, though he put in 16 goals in 28 total appearances. Maybe worrying for Arsenal, Higuain scored just once in nine appearances in the Champions League.

LEWANDOWSKI STAYING AT BORUSSIA, SAYS CLUB GM

It might not be what Robert Lewandowski wanted this summer, but if the news out of Germany is any indication, he’ll be playing another season in Signal Iduna Park.

Borussia Dortmund general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke was quoted on Sunday saying that Lewandowski would not be moving this summer, and that Borussia Dortmund are willing to let him go on a free transfer next summer, according to reports out of Germany. Watzke was quoted a few weeks back ending any chance of the Polish international moving to Bayern Munich, though it was thought that foreign teams like Manchester United and Real Madrid would have the chance to place bids for the sought-after striker.

Instead though, Lewandowski will continue to reside in Dortmund for at least another 12 months. The 24-year-old has been at his best in his last two seasons with Borussia, scoring a total of 66 goals in all competitions during the last 24 months at the club.

QUICK KICKS

FIFA has begun an investigation into the Ethiopian, Togolese, and Tunisian National Teams for fielding ineligible players. (REPORT)

Liverpool are edging closer to signing $31.4 million valued midfielder Henrik Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk. (REPORT)

Ivory Coast have qualified for the final round of CAF World Cup qualifying along with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. (REPORT)

A stretch of road in Sydney, Australia has been renamed the “Tim Cahill Expressway” for 48 hours in honor of Socceroo Tim Cahill. (REPORT)

Spain U21 star Alvaro Morata is being linked with a move to Napoli, where he’d be coached by Rafa Benitez. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Do you see Mexico turning things around against Brazil? Do you believe Spain can win the Confederations Cup? Do you see Arsenal acquiring Higuain?

Share your thoughts below.

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