PERUGIA, Italy (AP) — Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Luxembourg on Wednesday in its final World Cup warm-up match before leaving for Brazil, with forward Mario Balotelli looking in impressive form.
Claudio Marchisio headed Italy in front in the ninth minute after a splendid assist from Balotelli but Maxime Chanot levelled five minutes from time.
It was Italy’s seventh successive match without a win, although the six draws and a defeat to Spain have all happened after securing qualification for the World Cup.
“This test is absolutely not a failure, we tried to do things we had practiced in training,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. “But it’s clear we have to improve. But we had to try certain things as we have very few matches.
“We know that we weren’t brilliant, but we leave with the knowledge that we can have a great World Cup.”
Prandelli had said Balotelli would amaze with his improved form and the AC Milan forward was involved in most of the Azzurri’s best moves.
He went close to scoring on several occasions and hit the crossbar as Italy dominated.
Italy departs on Thursday and will play Brazilian club Fluminense in a final friendly match on June 8, six days before kicking off its World Cup campaign against England in Manaus.
Prandelli’s side also faces Costa Rica and Uruguay in Group D.
Italy started brightly and took an early lead when Marchisio picked out Balotelli from near the halfway line. The forward controlled the ball perfectly before crossing for the onrushing Marchisio to head home from close range.
Balotelli almost doubled Italy’s advantage shortly afterward but a last-ditch tackle saw his effort deflected over the bar.
The tempo slowed down somewhat but Italy should have extended its lead two minutes before halftime, when free-kick specialist Andrea Pirlo saw his effort parried with a diving save by Anthony Moris and Balotelli fired just wide of the left upright as the moved continued.
Moments earlier, Antonio Candreva had also fired narrowly wide.
Balotelli had another chance just after the interval when he sent a snapshot past the far post.
Antonio Cassano came off the bench for only his second appearance since the European Championship final in 2012 and he almost made an immediate impact with a through ball to Balotelli, who bamboozled two players before evading a tackle from a third as he unleashed a shot which crashed off the crossbar.
Candreva also hit the crossbar moments later.
Luxembourg had barely troubled Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon but leveled in the final minutes when Chanot headed home Mario Mutsch’s corner.
Ignazio Abate almost immediately restored Italy’s advantage but was denied by Moris.
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