Brazil overcame Italy in a six-goal thriller in Salvador to finish top of Group A in the Confederations Cup, eventually running out 4-2 winners following a flurry of second-half goals.
Chelsea duo David Luiz and Oscar started for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side who, like their opponents, went into the game boasting a 100 per cent record in the competition.
The home side were quickest out of the blocks, with Oscar thwarted by a last-ditch challenge by Giorgio Chiellini, while Gianluigi Buffon made a smart stop to deny Hulk.
David Luiz earned the first yellow card of the match after only nine minutes for a tackle from behind on Mario Balotelli, and six minutes later he was holding his own leg following a late chellenge.
The Chelsea defender, who went into the game nursing a broken nose sustained in Wednesday’s win over Mexico, then made a timely block to prevent Balotelli from breaking the deadlock.
The first real moment of class was provided by Oscar in the 24th minute when he produced a wonderful flick to release Neymar, who could only drag his effort wide.
Just after the half-hour mark Scolari decided to withdraw David Luiz as a precaution following the knock he picked up earlier in the game, with the 26-year-old replaced by Bayern Munich’s Dante, and it was a switch which paid almost instant dividends.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Neymar whipped in a free-kick from the left-hand side, and while Buffon did well to save Fred’s header, the rebound fell kindly to Dante who fired Brazil in front.
Five minutes after the restart it was all-square when Emanuele Giaccherini equalised for Italy, but they would be on level terms for only a short period as Neymar restored Brazil’s advantage shortly after, scoring his third goal of the tournament with a delightful free-kick.
With 24 minutes left to play, Brazil extended their lead when Fred showed great strength after racing on to a Marcelo pass and crashed his strike into the roof of the net.
The deficit was reduced, however, within five minutes courtesy of a close-range Chiellini strike following an Italian corner, and they were almost level moments later when Christian Maggio thumped a header against the bar.
With two minutes remaining, though, Fred put the game to bed when he scored a simple tap-in after Buffon had failed to hold Marcelo’s cross.
Both teams had already qualified for the last-four going into the game, and Brazil will now meet the runners up from Group B with a place in the final at stake.