Mexico vs. Japan: Keys to Victory in Confederations Cup Match

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIJune 22, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  Javier Hernandez of Mexico looks on during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A match between Mexico and Italy at the Maracana Stadium on June 16, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will resume on Saturday, June 22 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. With Group A taking center stage, once again, we will witness a clash between Japan and Mexico.

The question is, what must each team do to achieve victory?

Neither team is eligible to advance past group play, as both Japan and Mexico have lost their first two respective games. Mexico was most recently blanked by a score of 2-0 against Brazil, while Italy beat Japan in a high-scoring 4-3 affair.

With nothing but pride on the line, the sense of urgency remains.

The Confederations Cup is widely regarded as one of the premier tuneup tournaments for the World Cup. With both Mexico and Japan hoping to win the World Cup in 2014, picking up a victory in their final game in Brazil would be a momentous feat.

The question is, how can they get the job done?


Date: Saturday, June 22

Time: 3 p.m. ET


Live Stream: WatchESPN


Key for Mexico: Discovering Offense

What has happened to the Mexican forwards?

Over the span of their past nine international games, Mexico have managed to score a grand total of four goals. They've managed two goals in their past five games and have gone scoreless in four of their past seven affairs.

Again, what has happened to the Mexican forwards?

Javier Hernandez is one of the most revered scorers in the world, but he simply hasn't been able to break through. Chicharito has just one goal in his past five international games after scoring two against Nigeria on May 31.

That lone goal came on a penalty kick.

He's not entirely to blame, but in order to beat Japan, Hernandez must help kick-start the Mexican offense. Not only is he their main source of scoring, but Mexico have allowed two goals in each of their past two games.

If they can't find the back of the net, they won't draw—Japan will run away with this one.


Key for Japan: Discovering Defense

Entering the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Japan had put together a string of quality defensive performances. They'd tallied blank sheets in three of their previous six games, allowing more than one goal in just one outing.

Just like that, their defense disappeared.

Japan have allowed a combined seven goals over their past two games, which is as many as they'd allowed in their previous eight. They lost 3-0 to Brazil and then blew a 2-0 lead against Italy, eventually succumbing to a goal by Sebastian Giovinco in the 86th minute to lose 4-3.

Mexico's offense may be struggling, but if Japan throw away opportunities like they did against Italy, El Tri will win.

The most stunning statistic of the Italy-Japan game is not that they blew a 2-0 lead. Instead, it's the fact that they controlled possession for 58 percent of the game.

The only way to explain that is that they played very, very poor defense.


X-Factor: Chicharito Hernandez vs. Shinji Okazaki

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is one of the world's premier goalscorers. Shinji Okazaki is a quality player, but one without the reputation of a star, as he plays for the less-known VfB Stuttgart.

In recent games, it's as if they've seemingly switched bodies.

Hernandez has scored in two of his past six international appearances, and only once in his past five. This is far from the production we expect from Chicharito, as he scored two goals against Nigeria on May 31.

His struggles are a major reason why Mexico have failed to find the back of the net in recent games.

Okazaki, meanwhile, has at least one goal in four of his past five international contests. While his name may not be of extraordinary recognition, he's performing at as productive a level as any player in the world.

Most recently, he scored against Italy in Japan's 4-3 loss—his goal tied things up at 3-3.

This game will be decided by a multitude of factors, but Chicharito and Okazaki will ultimately carry their teams to victory or defeat. Hernandez is the heart and soul of Mexico's offensive attack, while Okazaki is all but unstoppable right now.

Monitor which trend continues, as it will lead you to the eventual winner of the Japan versus Mexico game slated for Saturday, June 22.


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