In the first non-friendly match played at the renovated Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janiero, Italy beat Mexico 2-1 in a Group A match at the FIFA Confederations Cup that was controlled by and dominated by the Italians, while Mexico continued with recent struggles.
Italy came out playing a 4-3-2-1 with Mario Balotelli as the lone striker and Juventus duo Cluadio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini in support roles. Mexico on the other hand, played a 4-4-1-1 with Giovani Dos Santos partnering Javier Hernandez up front and Javier Aquino chosen to start as the right sided midfielder over Pablo Barrera.
Italy came out controlling the flow, peppering Mexico keeper Jesus Corona with shots as they were able to dictate tempo and pressure a Mexico defense that struggled to settle into the game. As a result, Mexico committed a number of fouls in the danger area of 20 to 25 yards from goal.
This is how Italy scored it’s first goal of the game as Andrea Pirlo, on his 100th appearance for the Azzurri, did what he does best and hit a well-placed free kick into the back of the net for the opener.
While Italy did control the action, it did have one moment where it lost focus and paid for it late in the first half. Giovani Dos Santos made a run into the box and was able to beat Andrea Barzagli, who then proceeded to bring down Dos Santos for a penalty. Hernandez converted the subsequent penalty to give the Mexicans a draw heading into the half.
The second half was more of the same, and as the game seemed like it was hitting that point where it looked like it could end in a 1-1 draw, Giaccherini hits a lob pass towards Balotelli, who out-muscled Javier Rodriguez to score the game-winner 12 minutes from time.
The Italians showed great control and tactical dominance, and the one thing that almost let them down was their inability to convert their scoring chances into goals scored. Balotelli played well as the lone striker, while another standout was left back Mattia De Sciglio, who had great overlapping runs in attack and defended exceptionally well.
As for Mexico, while their collective effort was much improved when compared to their displays in their three prior games, all World Cup Qualifiers, they still were inept in attack. El Tri once again failed to show any ability to create sustained scoring chances while lacking creative and tactical imagination to solve this problem.