Mexico vs. Japan: Key Takeaway for Each Team from Confederations Cup Match

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2013

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 22: Andres Guardado of Mexico being marked by Shinji Okazaki of Japan during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A match between Japan and Mexico at Estadio Mineirao on June 22, 2013 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mexico and Japan knew heading into their final game in the Confederations Cup that they hadn't done enough to advance to the next stage of the tournament, but that didn't stop them from putting on an entertaining match on Saturday afternoon. 

Mexico came out on top 2-1 thanks in large part to two goals from Javier Hernandez, as El Tri picked up their first win in the tournament. With the loss, Japan left Brazil without earning a single point in the group standings. 

Both teams will ultimately be disappointed by their showing in the Confed Cup, but the most important aspect of the tournament is to prepare for the World Cup. In that spirit, there were things that both teams showed that they can learn from to get better as the 2014 international tournament draws near. 

Here was the key takeaway for each side from this final game. 


Mexico: It's Javier Hernandez or Bust Offensively

Needless to say, it's been a rough summer for Mexico.

Despite being a favorite in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying, they managed to score just three goals in six games and are currently in third place with just one win and five draws. 

Coming into this match, the attack hadn't really improved since coming to Brazil either. In the two matches against Italy and Brazil, El Tri managed just one goal—a successful penalty kick from Javier Hernandez. 

As it turns out, getting Hernandez involved turned out to be the key to doubling their goal output in the 2-1 win over Japan. 

Hernandez took six of the team's 20 shots in the match, which eventually led to both of the team's goals in the second half. 

This was a much better number of opportunities for Hernandez than he had seen in his previous Confed Cup outings. He only took three of Mexico's 10 shots against Italy and only took one of the team's nine shots against Brazil. 

While it's ideal for Mexico to have a more balanced attack, it's clear that Hernandez should be given the lion's share of the touches inside the box for El Tri to be most effective. 


Japan: Back-Line Woes Remain Glaring Weakness

Japan may have left Brazil winless, but there were plenty of positives to take away from their run in the Cup. For instance, they came just one goal away from equalizing against both Italy and Mexico. 

The Blue Samurai can make the claim that they feature an upper-echelon midfield. Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Ozakazi all played well throughout the team's three games in Brazil.

Their ability to create shots and play as a unit should be very encouraging. Ozakazi scored the team's only goal while Honda and Kagawa each put a shot on goal. 

However, the back line continues to be an issue for them. 

Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima put on an admirable performances, racking up seven saves. But he can't be expected to do everything; many goaltenders would have allowed much more than two goals if they were called upon to make nine saves. 

The two goals allowed pushed their grand total for the three group games to eight. That's far too many if Japan want to make noise at the World Cup in 2014, which makes their back line the biggest concern as they try to get better going forward.