2013 CONFEDERATIONS CUP | MEXICO 2 - JAPAN 1
Chicharito saves grace for Mexico against Japan
Two second-half headers from the Manchester United striker ensured that Mexico exit the Confederations Cup with their honour intact.
Sometimes football can be so unfair. Japan won the affections of half the planet with their fast, passing game and their neat, triangular circulation of the ball between Honda, Kagawa and Okazaki and yet their are going home from the Confederations Cup with nothing to show for their efforts. No points at all, four goals for and nine against. Both Mexicos and Japan had already been eliminated before the ball rolled into play at the Mineirão stadium so neither team had anything to play for other than pride.
Japan started the match off as they normally do, spreading the ball about prudently and precisely and making a steady series of approaches on Ochoa’s goal. Kagawa was the first to close on four minutes only for the keeper to parry the ball behind. Controversy struck five minutes later when Endo’s long-range strike was subtly deflected off Okazaki, wrong-footed Ochoa and entered the net. But instead of allowing the goal to stand, referee Felix Brych ruled it out for an inexistent offside. It was a decision which affected Japan’s morale and when Andrés Guardado headed against the woodwork just before half-time, it was a warning of what was to come.
After the break, Mexico stepped up a gear or two and took the lead on 53 minutes when Chicharito connected with a precision Guardado cross to head past Kawashima. The United forward doubled his account, and Mexico’s little over 10 minutes later with another header, this time meeting Gio’s corner.
It looked like the game was all over but Japan refused to bow out without a fight. Okazaki pulled a goal back with five minutes of regulation time on the clock and had the Mineirão stadium on its feet as spectators anticipated an exhilarating finale with both teams keen to go out on the highest note possible. Kawashima denied Chicharito from claiming a hat trick by stopping a late spot-kick. Mexico quit the tournament after having won match which at least is something while Japan continue to charm the world – and many of us will looking forward to seeing them return here next year for the 2014 World Cup finals.