Mexico vs. Japan: Players Who Must Step Up to Give Their Team the Edge

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  Javier Hernandez of Mexico reacts 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Mexico and Japan may be eliminated from the Confederations Cup 2013, but the two sides will both be looking to take advantage of playing in Brazil one more time before returning there for the 2014 World Cup. 

The group stage didn't go as well as either side planned. Through two games, neither has managed to earn a victory. 

Brazil and Italy have already clinched Group A's two spots so the loser of this match will have the dubious distinction of walking away from the group stage without registering a single point on the table. With each match key to preparing for the cup, that's a place no one wants to be in. 

It's in these situations that key players have to step up and lead the way. Here are the key players that must step up their game for their club to come out on top. 


Maya Yoshida, Centre-Back, Japan

Japan should be encouraged by its overall effort against Italy. 

The attack netted three goals against the Italians. Three players scored goals and the midfield was once again stellar. 

However, the complete lack of quality play from the back line has to be concerning. The Samurai Blue have allowed three goals in each of its last two games. And it all starts with Yoshida. 

The 24-year-old Southampton defender has struggled in both of the team's previous two games, posting a 6.38 rating against Brazil and an even worse 5.26 rating against Italy according to

Japan has shown that it can score the goals necessary to keep up, but can Yoshida lead the Japanese defense this time?


Andres Guardado, Left Midfielder, Mexico

El Tri's attack is starting to become a real point of serious concern. The Mexican side has scored just one goal in its first two matches in Brazil and only managed three goals in six CONCACAF fourth-round matches. 

One player that has to step up is Guardado. The midfielder has been rendered ineffective in the team's games against Brazil and Italy. He was especially inept against Brazil, completing just 66 percent of his passes and posting a match rating of 5.5.

With four shot attempts in two games, it isn't that Guardado is being left out of the offense. It's that he isn't capitalizing on his opportunities. 

If he wants to ensure that he's in the Starting XI for the World Cup, a big game against Japan's weak back line is crucial. 


Javier Hernandez, Forward, Mexico

Everyone needs to step up offensively for El Tri, but the majority of attention will always be on Chicharito. The striker is clearly the best player on their side, but his play in the Confederations Cup has been disappointing. 

The lack of assertiveness has to be the most perplexing aspect of his Confed Cup run. Against Italy, he took just three of Mexico's 10 shots and disappeared even more against Brazil when he took just one of Mexico's nine shots. 

He did score the team's only goal of the tournament, but that was on a penalty kick. 

Chicharito must find ways to become a more active part of the attack if El Tri is going to get back on track offensively.