NAPLES, Italy, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Mario Balotelli came on in the second half to score a late equalizer as Group B winners Italy completed their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-2 draw against Armenia at home on Tuesday.
The hosts suffered a bad start to the game and Yura Movsisyan took advantage of Alberto Aquilani's poor clearance to put Armenia ahead in the fourth minute. Alessandro Florenzi pulled the hosts level in the 24th minute after meeting a pinpointed cross from Lorenzo Insigne.
Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky made good saves to deny the Italians the lead early in the second half before Henrikh Mkhitaryan put the visitors back in front in the 70th minute.
Balotelli, who missed last week's 2-2 draw in Denmark with a dose of flu, came to the rescue six minutes later to earn Italy a deserved point.
Cesare Prandelli's men have finished the qualifying campaign with 22 points after winning six of their 10 games. But two draws from their final two games could cost them the top seed status in the World Cup finals draw.
Prandelli said he was not concerned about that possibility.
"I am not worried about whether we are top seeds. The important thing was to qualify, we did that, and now we have to judge the performances to make the right choices for our final 23-man squad," he said.
He rued his side's bad performance in the first 20 minutes but was happy with their response to Armenia's goals.
"We started badly, very badly. The opening 20 minutes were embarrassing," he said. "From then, we reacted and had a good match."
"It was important for me to see players who never gave up and that was a positive sign. I told the lads they had to play good football and that now the World Cup campaign begins, so I' ll judge every single game," he said.
Defender Davide Astori seconded Prandelli's those remarks.
"We too know that we made a lot of mistakes in the opening 20 minutes and Armenia did well to take advantage, as they have quality in attack," he said.
"They started very aggressively and we misplaced too many passes and you cannot make mistakes like that in a World Cup qualifier, but we did well to react," he said.
Armeinia went into the encounter at the Stadio San Paolo needing to win to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs.
They enjoyed a great start and went in front through Movsisyan, who beat Italy goalkeeper Federico Marchetti from 12 yards.
Italy almost equalized midway through the first half when Insigne's powerful shot struck the far post. The Neapolitan Insigne continued to terrorize the Armenia defence and halfway through the firs half, his perfect cross towards the far post found his ex-under21 teammate Lorenzi who nodded the ball in.
"Playing with Lorenzo is easy, as he saw my movement and put the ball on my head," Florenzi said.
He also rued Italy's bad start of the game which they could have won.
"We didn't start the way we planned and unfortunately conceded that early goal, but did well to get the game back on track straight away. I think the 2-2 result does not reflect the match," he said.
Balotelli replaced Southampton forward Pablo Osvaldo early in the second half.
Just when the home side were playing at their best, Armenia went back in front, Mkhitaryan getting past his marker before heading Gevorg Ghazaryan's cross beyond Marchetti.
Italy soon drew level when Andrea Pirlo fed Balotelli in the box and he fired the ball towards the top-left corner where Berezovsky could not reach it.
Balotelli was apparently unhappy with the Italian media who have put him in further controversy this week. When he passed through the mixed zone, he did not stop and only said to the gathered media: "You speak badly, I score the goal."