Mexico 2 (Hernandez 54, 66)
Japan 1 (Okazaki 86)
Mineirão, Belo Horizonte. Temp. 26°C, wind 7 mph, scattered clouds. Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
Mexico: Ochoa, Torres Nilo, Moreno, Mier, Reyes, Guardado (Salcido 71), Torrado, Zavala, dos Santos (Barrera 78), Hernandez, Jimenez (Aquino 90).
Japan: Kawashima, Kurihara, Konno, Nagatomo (Nakamura 77), Sakai H (Uchida 58), Endo, Hosogai, Okazaki, Honda, Maeda (Yoshida 65), Kagawa.
Mexico prevailed in the battle for third place in Group A at the 2013 Confederations Cup with a hard fought 2-1 win over Japan, who end up pointless at the bottom of the group despite having played some attractive attacking football at the tournament. Things wouldn’t have had to have gone very differently for the Japanese to have reached the semi finals alongside Brazil as they dominated periods of the games against both Italy and Mexico and were unlucky to lose out by the odd goal on both occasions. However, their finishing and lack of a top class centre forward let them down on this occasion, where they came up against a Mexico side containing the prolific Javier Hernandez, who notched up his thirty fourth and thirty fifth goals in fifty three appearances for his country.
The closest either team came to breaking the deadlock before the interval was a disallowed goal from Japan in the ninth minute when Okazaki deflected an Endo shot into the corner from near the penalty spot, but was in an offside position, and a bullet header from Andres Guardado in the fortieth minute that beat Kawashima but struck the post. Hernandez opened the scoring eight minutes into the second half when he timed his run perfectly to ghost in at the near post and get his head on the end of a cross from Guardado on the left wing. His close range header flew into the net before Kawashima had time to react and Mexico finally had their first goal in open play of the tournament.
The man they call Chicharito repeated the trick twelve minutes later to score an almost identical header from practically the same spot, but this time he lost his marker at the far post from a dos Santos corner on the right to make it 2-0 to Mexico, proving yet against what an accomplished goal poacher he is. His movement off the ball makes him almost impossible to mark and his finishing rarely lets him down. It’s just a shame for Mexico they they currently rely so heavily on him for goals. Japan pushed hard to get back into the game in the last quarter of the match but didn’t get a breakthrough until the last five minutes when Shinji Okazaki got his second of the tournament. Their challenge should have been killed off in injury time when Mexico got a penalty but this time Hernandez wasn’t so clinical and Kawashima parried his spot kick. The Mexican striker was first to the rebound but he blasted his shot against the bar from point blank range. Hernandez was denied his hat-trick, but Mexico hung on for the win.