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Warm-up test crucial

Friday, June 06, 2014

PERUGIA, Italy — 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 practised 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.

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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