Mexico and Italy get their Confederations Cup journeys started with a key Group A match. The two sides will battle alongside host nation Brazil, along with Japan, for just two spots in the knockout rounds.
Neither squad enters the tournament in particularly good form. El Tri have struggled to generate any type of offensive pressure during a recent string of qualifying draws. The Azzurri are coming off a surprising draw with Haiti in a friendly.
Both teams have enough talent to make a deep run, but finding top form quickly enough to make that happen is the biggest challenge. If either side can score a convincing win, it could very well spark the run that supporters are hoping for.
With that in mind, let's check out all the vital viewing information for the Confederations Cup clash, followed by a closer look at some players to watch and a prediction.
Where: Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Sunday, June 16, at 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Mexico Player to Watch: Jose de Jesus Corona
If not for Corona, Mexico's qualifying situation would likely be far more dire. The goalkeeper has often bailed out an attack that can't seem to develop the necessary chemistry to make life difficult on opposing back lines.
El Tri scored just one goal in a recent stretch of three World Cup qualifiers. They still managed to get a victory and two draws because Corona racked up three straight clean sheets. He's commanded the box very well and made several key stops.
Mexico hopes he can maintain that form while the search for more offense continues. In a group with Brazil, Italy and Japan, Corona figures to see a lot of action. How he responds, starting against the Azzurri, will have a major impact on El Tri's chances.
Italy Player to Watch: Daniele De Rossi
For Italy to contend for the Confederations Cup title, they will have to control the midfield. That's where the Azzurri should hold their biggest advantage, thanks to a veteran group highlighted by Andrea Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo and De Rossi.
The 29-year-old Roma star is coming off another solid campaign, and he brings much-needed versatility to the squad. He's capable of handling anything asked of him, from a holding role, to being a playmaker or moving forward to play a more prominent part in the attack.
The Azzurri know Mexico have been struggling on the attack. So the best thing they can do is protect the ball in the midfield and slow down the pace. It will further frustrate El Tri and give stars like De Rossi a chance to work some magic.
Matchup to Watch: Javier Hernandez vs. Mario Balotelli
Hernandez had been one of the lone bright spots for the Mexican offense, but even he's gone cold. He failed to score during the team's recent qualifiers, unable to find the finishing touch that allowed him to score four goals earlier in the year.
His counterpart at striker figures to be Balotelli, and it looks like a leg injury won't hold him back, according to Sports Illustrated. The enigmatic Italian has always possessed the potential to become one of the top forwards in the world, and the Azzurri need him to focus on scoring goals for the next couple weeks.
Both Hernandez and Balotelli are capable of completely taking over this match. If either of them flashes that elite form, it will be a massive advantage for that side. Otherwise, the edge is slight either way, and a draw could be in the cards.
Mexico 1, Italy 1
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