FIFA Confederations Cup Scores 2013: Group A Concludes With Thrilling Brazilian Victory
Though who would advance to the tournament's semifinals was already determined, Saturday still provided plenty of suspense for Group A, which ended with Brazil's 10th consecutive Confederations win over Italy. The match was headlined by two late-game goals from Brazilian forward Fred Guedes and another uncharacteristically bad performance from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who allowed three goals against Japan Thursday.
Things began slowly, with neither juggernaut offense able to strike in the first 45 minutes. Brazil made the one minute of extra time count, however, as superstar Neymar whipped a free kick at Buffon. The deflection was cleaned up by Dante, marking the defender's first career international goal and giving the home team a momentum-building score to end the half.
Italy wasted little time in the second, drawing even in the 51st minute when Mario Balotelli flicked a pass to Emanuele Giaccherini, who soared a shot past Brazil's Julio Cesar. Just four minutes later, Neymar responded with a goal of his own, beating Italian wing back Christian Maggio and bringing Brazil up 2-1. It was the match's third score in just 10 minutes of regulation. Brazil would never look back.
The tournament favorites added a goal from the left foot of Fred at 66'. Though Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini (who was beaten by Fred just five minutes before) netted a goal and brought the score to 3-2, Fred would add insurance with his second score of the night in the 89th. With the win, Brazil emerges from Group A undefeated, while Italy will get another crack at it in the semifinals Wednesday.
The nightcap featured Mexico and Japan, two teams already unable to advance. That didn't stop either side from a great match, which was scoreless at halftime. Mexico cracked the scoreboard first in the 54th minute, when forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez headed home a cross from Andres Guardado. Guardado had failed to connect on a promising header opportunity toward the end of the first half.
Chicharito added another header at 66', delivering home a corner from Giovani Dos Santos and giving Mexico a 2-0 advantage. The "Samurai Blue" didn't go down easily though, bringing things to 2-1 in the 86th minute when Shinji Okazaki scored on a cross from Yasuhito Endo. Chicharito would have a chance at a hat trick with a last-minute penalty shot, but Japanese goalie Eiji Kawashima made a brilliant diving save. The deflection was drilled off the crossbar by Chicharito.
Mexico builds momentum for the World Cup qualifiers, while Japan can take solace in playing two of the best teams in the world in Italy and Mexico very closely. The semis will be played next week, while Group B concludes Sunday.