Goals, goals, goals once again in the Confederations Cup as Brazil and Italy even though they have already progressed into the semi-finals before tonight’s game exchanged a six-goal battle which included some great strikes. Elsewhere, Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez missed a late penalty which would have give him a hat-trick in a 2-1 win for Mexico over Japan.
ITALY 2-4 BRAZIL
Confederations Cup poster boy Neymar spurred the Brazilian motivation once again as his team topped Group A with a 4-2 triumph over Italy in Salvador to set-up a semi-final against Uruguay or Nigeria.
The favourite to win ‘Player of the Tournament’ award lit up the Arena Fonte Nova with a fabulous free-kick while striker Fred scored twice to set the hosts on their way to a third straight win in the tournament.
It was substitute Dante, replacing Chelsea’s David Luiz with a dead leg, who opened the scoring, notching his first international goal to give Brazil the lead on the stroke of half-time. Italy were caught defending terribly from a Neymar free-kick and veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon parried a Fred header. However, the big Bayern Munich defender was on hand to instinctively knock in the rebound in his own hometown to make the stadium explode into rapture.
They took the lead into half-time but Italy were soon level. Another first-half substitute Emanuele Giaccherini bringing the score level with a brutal shot after the interval. An jumping backheel from Mario Balotelli fed Giaccherini in from a goal-kick and the Juventus winger blasted his shot into the far corner from an acute angle.
After being fouled on the edge of the box by Giorgio Chiellini, Neymar stepped up to take the free-kick himself. The Barcelona striker hit the spectacular curling free-kick into the far top corner that give Buffon no chance.
Fred appeared to put the game beyond Italy on 66 minutes. The Fluminense striker controlled beautifully a long ball from left-back Marcelo with his thigh while under huge pressure from Chiellini. He took another touch to take it away from the defender to the left of the box before firing an special powerful finish past Buffon.
Yet, the Azzurri came back with a confusing goal by defender Chiellini. Mass confusion ensued as the referee appeared to have blown his whistle before the ball hits the back of the net. He looked to be awarding a penalty for a foul, but Chiellini then slammed home the ball from a corner so the referee deemed to wave play on.
The Seleção wrapped up the game late on when Fred notched his second goal pouncing on the ball as Buffon failed to hold Marcelo’s shot.
Brazil win the group and maintain their 100% record and will face either Uruguay or Nigeria in the semi-finals. Italy will go against the mighty Spain in what should be a classic encounter.
BRAZIL: Julio Cesar, Daniel Alves, Silva, Luiz (Dante 33), Marcelo, Hernanes, Neymar (Bernard 68), Oscar, Luiz Gustavo, Fred, Hulk (Fernando 76)
ITALY: Buffon, Chiellini, De Sciglio, Candreva, Bonucci, Abate (Maggio 30), Aquilani, Marchisio, Montolivo (Giaccherini 25), Diamanti (El Shaarawy 72), Balotelli
JAPAN 1-2 MEXICO
Mexico ended their Confederations Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Japan at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. A double from Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez in the second half propelled the Mexicans to a 2-0 lead in a game initially dominated by their Asian opponents. Shinji Okazaki tapped home with four minutes to go to ensure a nervy ending, but Hernandez failed to complete his treble, missing a poor penalty.
With both sides already eliminated, both coaches rang the changes, with the likes of Guillermo Ochoa starting in goal for Mexico and the suspended Makoto Hasebe replace by Hajime Hosogai for the Samurai Blue.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s men might have knocked out of the tournament in a classic 4-3 encounter against Italy on Wednesday night, but they started in the same attacking attitude with Shinji Kagawa forcing Ochoa into a smart save inside five minutes. Just a minute later, Japan had a goal chalked off amidst a bright opening. Yasuhito Endo’s long range shot took a slight deflection off Shinji Okazaki and past Ochoa, and unfortunately the German referee got it wrong as replays showed the Japanese striker being level with the Mexican defenders.
The first half ended goalless and El Tri began the second period with much more positivity and should have grabbed the lead. Giovani dos Santos played in from the right wing and produced a vicious shot which was blocked by Hosogai.
The Mexicans continued to press and were rewarded with the opening goals with Japan struggling in defence. A fine delivery from the left by Jose Andres Guardado saw Chicharito take advantage of some lax defending by the Japanese to fire home on 54 minutes.
Following that setback, Japan showed signs of purpose and were close to scoring the equaliser but it would be Hernandez that scored the next goal. Similar to the first goal, a set-piece was flicked on, towards Hernandez who doubled his tally with an easy header in the 66th minute.
For all of their determination, the Japanese were not to be denied a goal and Shinji Okazaki made it 2-1 with five minutes remaining.
Hernandez had the opportunity to seal a hat-trick after being fouled by Atsuto Uchida, but the Manchester United striker saw his spot kick saved by Eiji Kawashima, before his rebounding effort dramatically smashed off the cross bar.
JAPAN: Kawashima, Sakai (Uchida 59), Konno, Kurihara, Nagatomo (Nakamura 77), Endo, Hosogai, Okazaki, Honda, Kagawa, Maeda (Yoshida 65)
MEXICO: Ochoa, Moreno, Reyes, Zavala, Torres, Mier, Torrado, Dos Santos (Barrera 78), Guardado (Salcido 71), Jimenez (Aquino 90), Hernandez
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