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Italy coach blasts 'shirtless' match-winner Balotelli

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli tore a strip off volatile striker Mario Balotelli despite the controversial star grabbing the winner in the 2-1 Confederations Cup victory over Mexico at the Maracana.

Balotelli sealed the win 12 minutes from time with a fine, muscular finish, but Prandelli was furious after the Milan striker was booked for stripping off his shirt in celebration.

"Mario needs to stop taking his shirt off after scoring a goal. Picking up silly bookings is not a good idea in a tournament as difficult as this one," said Prandelli, having already castigated Balotelli for his sending off in the recent World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic.

Chilean referee Enrique Osses cautioned Balotelli after the 21-year-old followed his 77th-minute winner Sunday by repeating the flexed-muscle pose he made famous during last year's European Championships.

Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring the winner against Mexico
Mario Balotelli (shirtless) and his teammates celebrate after scoring the winner against Mexico.Pic/AFP

The AC Milan forward was immediately benched by Prandelli and the pair exchanged heated words on the Maracana stadium touchline.

 Prandelli said Balotelli had apologised for the incident, claiming he was not aware of the tournament's rules regarding cautions.

Despite bemoaning Balotelli's latest show of indiscipline, he also praised the former Manchester City star's concentration during Sunday's match.

"He was switched on and motivated for the full 90 minutes," Prandelli said. "His hard work was rewarded with the goal at the end." 

But as regards the performance, sparked by a sumptuous opening free-kick goal from evergreen cap centurion Andrea Pirlo, Prandelli pronounced himself satisfied with the Italians having shrugged off a limp warm-up draw against Haiti.

"It was a very tactical match but we dominated it for the most part. Mexico were trying to get into it on the counter-attack when we made mistakes. But we stopped them from finding their game and dictating the place. That's what we tried to do and we managed it," said Prandelli.

"Mexico came up against a very solid Italian team."

Italy now head for Recife in the north to meet a Japan side beaten by Brazil in their opening game and coached by fellow Italian Alberto Zaccheroni as they look to keep pace with the Brazilians before their final pool showdown.

"He (Zaccheroni) knows us well and how we do things," said Prandelli. "I know Alberto and we will have to be alert to anything. We are already concentrating on that next match."

Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said Italy had to thank their "individual" moments of brilliance for their win.

"That was what made the difference," said de la Torre in noting the majestic showing and free-kick finish of Pirlo.

"We came up against a very well-organised team with very good players, but it was their individual brilliance which proved the difference between us.

"We have a few things we need to work on and now we will focus on the next match against Brazil," in Fortaleza, de la Torre concluded.

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