Soccer: Balotelli feted after upstaging Neymar
'Could become one of world's top five' says Prandelli22 March, 13:38
"He could become one of the top five players in the world," said coach Cesare Prandelli after the AC Milan striker's 25-yard scorcher in the 57th minute pulled the Azzurri level after they went 2-0 down in the first half. "Balo played like a champion, now he just has to find consistency," said the coach, who called the come-from-behind draw against the five-time world champions "one of the best matches since I became Italy manager (in 2010)".
The other goal for four-time World Cup winners Italy came three minutes before Balotelli's, from Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi.
It had looked as though Italy would pay for their missed opportunities when Brazil took a 2-0 lead at half-time thanks to goals from Fred and Oscar.
Balotelli said Friday: "What a goal, I want to dedicate it to a singer friend of mine".
He praised Neymar, frequently named among the world's best players, saying "he's brilliant". Asked what mark he would give himself for his performance, the 22-year-old ex-Inter and Manchester City striker said "six (out of 10) for the goal, because I missed too many chances in front of goal". He said he liked the 4-3-3 formation Italy employed in the second half because it was the same Milan used.
Prandelli, whose side now face Malta in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday, added "we have to get our energy back for the Malta game". Italy lead European World Cup qualifying group B with 10 points from four games, four points more than second-placed Bulgaria.
Before the Brazil game, Prandelli and his players said they were regarding it as a test for the Confederations Cup later this year and hoping to improve their reputation for 'not turning up' in friendlies.
Italy have lost only one competitive match under Prandelli, the 4-0 defeat to Spain in the final of Euro 2012.
But their record in friendlies has continued to be poor, losing seven out of the 13 non-competitive matches played under him and winning just three.