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Soccer roundup: Mario Balotelli on mark for Italians

Italy’s Mario Balotelli (9) showed his strength and skill in scoring the winner in a Confederations Cup game.

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

Italy’s Mario Balotelli (9) showed his strength and skill in scoring the winner in a Confederations Cup game.

Mario Balotelli’s strength and rapidly developing talent powered Italy to a 2-1 victory over Mexico at the Confederations Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

In the 78th minute, Balotelli collected a perfectly placed acrobatic pass from Emanuele Giaccherini and muscled in between two defenders to break a deadlock in the first official match at the renovated Maracana Stadium.

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Much like at last year’s European Championship, when he scored both goals in a 2-1 semifinal win over Germany and pulled off his shirt after one of them, Balotelli reacted by stripping off his jersey to show off his muscular physique, earning a yellow card.

If Balotelli picks up another yellow card in Italy’s next match, against Japan, he’ll miss the final group game against host Brazil.

‘‘I didn’t know about this rule with the two yellows,’’ Balotelli said. ‘‘Next time I won’t do it.’’

Celebrating his 100th appearance with the national team, Andrea Pirlo had given Italy the lead with one of his trademark free kicks in the 27th. Mexico equalized in the 34th minute, when Javier ‘‘Chicharito’’ Hernandez converted a penalty kick after Andrea Barzagli tripped Giovani Dos Santos.

Italy moved level with Brazil on 3 points in the group after the hosts beat Japan, 3-0, in the tournament opener Saturday.

Spain 2, Uruguay 1 — Spain won in Recife, Brazil, on first-half goals by Pedro and Roberto Soldado.

Spain had a little luck with the first goal, which may have been heading wide when it took a huge deflection off Uruguay defender Diego Lugano to beat goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The second was perfect finishing by Soldado after a cute reverse pass from Cesc Fabregas.

Luis Suarez scored a consolation goal with a delicately curling free kick for Uruguay in the 88th.

Spain is trying to win the only major trophy it lacks to go with a 2010 World Cup and two consecutive European championships.

World Cup

Ethiopia, looking to qualify for its first World Cup, joined the Ivory Coast and Egypt in becoming the first teams to qualify for the final round of playoffs in African qualifying.

Egypt, under former US coach Bob Bradley, took the playoff place in Group G with a 1-0 win in Mozambique.

Also, Bernard Parker’s own-goal in the 70th minute gave Ethiopia its 2-1 comeback victory over South Africa, ending any chance of the 2010 World Cup host playing in Brazil in 2014.

NWSL

Joanna Lohman and Kyah Simon each scored for Boston, but the Breakers fell, 3-2, to Sky Blue FC at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville.

Sky Blue (8-2-1) received goals from Lisa De Vanna, Katy Freels, and Monica Ocampo.

Boston (3-4-3) was without Heather O’Reilly and Sydney Leroux, who played in the US national team’s 4-1 win over South Korea Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

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Kenny Miller scored two goals, including the winner, and the host Vancouver Whitecaps beat the New England Revolution, 4-3, late Saturday night.

Camilo, on a penalty kick, and Jordan Harvey also scored for the Whitecaps (5-5-4), who are unbeaten in seven home games.

Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, and second-half substitute Dimitry Imbongo scored for the Revolution (5-5-5), whose MLS unbeaten streak ended at five matches and their overall run at six.

Vancouver’s first goal ended New England’s shutout streak at four games and was the first goal allowed by Bobby Shuttleworth in a club-record 420 minutes.

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