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Messi to face Balotelli in exhibition for Pope Francis

Photo: AP

Pope Francis holds a San Lorenzo soccer jersey given to him in March.

ROME (AP) -- Lionel Messi's Argentina will face Mario Balotelli's Italy next month in an exhibition game dedicated to Pope Francis.

After months of talks, the Italian Football Federation announced Thursday the match will be held Aug. 14 at Rome's Stadio Olimpico. The federation adds that both squads will have audiences with the pope at the Vatican. Pope Francis is from Argentina and an acknowledged soccer fan.

Italy's last match with Argentina was also an exhibition in Rome, with Argentina winning 2-1 in 2001.

Before that, Diego Maradona's Argentina knocked host Italy out of the 1990 World Cup on penalty kicks in a semifinal in Naples.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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