FIFA Confederations Cup: Japan 1 Mexico 2
Javier Hernandez scored twice against Japan as Mexico clinched a third-place finish in Group A of the FIFA Confederations Cup on Saturday.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan team had the better of the first half but failed to capitalise on their superiority and were made to pay in the second half by Hernandez.
The Manchester United striker headed Mexico ahead early on in the second period and nodded in another with 24 minutes remaining.
Shinji Okazaki gave Japan hope of a late comeback when he converted from close range after 86 minutes before Hernandez was handed a hat-trick opportunity when Mexico were awarded a late penalty.
However, Hernandez saw his spot-kick saved by Eiji Kawashima and his rebound effort crashed against the crossbar and away to safety.
Both managers made changes to their teams as four players came in for Mexico and three for the Asian side, with experienced duo Carlos Salcido and Makoto Hasebe being the most notable absentees their respective nations.
Mexico began with intent as Giovani dos Santos looked prominent on the left. But it was Japan who should have taken the lead inside the first minutes as a fast, free-flowing move through the centre finished with Yasuhito Endo threading a disguised pass into the middle of the area for Shinji Kagawa, but Guillermo Ochoa managed to get in the way of his poked shot.
Just before the 10-minute mark, Japan thought they had the lead as Shinji Okazaki flicked Endo’s 20-yard low drive into the goal, but the attacker was harshly adjudged to be offside.
Jose Manuel de la Torre’s men began to offer more of an attacking threat as the first period neared its conclusion and they soon created the best opportunity of the half as Jorge Torres Nilo crossed from the left, but Andres Guardado’s diving header came back off the post.
The second half saw Mexico start in impressive fashion as they poured men forward and they soon took advantage as Guardado shifted the ball away from Hiroki Sakai on the left flank before crossing for Hernandez to beat his marker and the goalkeeper to head in at the near post.
Okazaki soon went close for Japan from 25 yards, but Mexico had the luxury of a clinical striker in form and Hernandez got his second of the match as he headed in at the far post after Hiram Mier flicked on Dos Santos’ in-swinging corner with just over 20 minutes left.
Japan pulled one back with just five minutes remaining when Endo played a controlled volley across the face of the Mexico goal from the right and Okazaki tapped it in.
The stage was set for Hernandez to get his third of the evening in stoppage time as he won a penalty after being bundled over, but Kawashima and then the crossbar denied the 25-year-old striker.