Egypt's World Cup opponent Saudi Arabia lose to Italy on Balotelli return

Reuters , Monday 28 May 2018,
Italy's forward Mario Balotelli (R) and Saudi Arabia's defender Osama Hawsawi vie for the ball during the friendly football match between Italy and Saudi Arabia at Kybunpark stadium in St Gallen on May 28, 2018. (AFP)

Mario Balotelli scored on his first Italy appearance in nearly four years on Monday as they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a friendly to give new coach Roberto Mancini a winning start.

Italy have missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and Mancini was starting the daunting task of rebuilding the side following their historic failure.

World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia offered little threat for the first hour yet came close to morale-boosting draw in the second half after falling 2-0 behind.

Balotelli, who last played for his country in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, broke the deadlock after 21 minutes, twisting past a defender before beating goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais with a low shot from outside the area.

Substitute Andrea Belotti extended Italy's lead in the 69th minute, scoring at the second attempt after his powerful downward header was parried by Al-Owais.

The Saudis, who face Russia, Egypt and Uruguay in their World Cup group, had not offered the slightest threat until that point but suddenly burst into life.

Davide Zappacosta lost possession on the halfway line and the ball was quickly slipped to Yahya Al Shehri who sped past the onrushing Gianluigi Donnarumma and scored into an empty net in the 72nd minute.

Another defensive mix-up by Italy almost let in Fahad Al-Muwallad to equalise but his shot was saved by Donnarumma.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


Short link:



  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.