Mexico vs. Italy: El Tri wins in a shocker, 2-1
When Mexico met defending World Cup champion Italy on Thursday it didn't figure to be much of a contest. And it wasn't, with Mexico dominating all phases of the game en route to a resounding 2-1 victory.
A first-half goal by Carlos Vela and another by Alberto Medina in the final 10 minutes proved to be more than enough offense for El Tri, which leaves Friday for South Africa and next week's World Cup opener. Defender Leonardo Bonucci got Italy on the board in the final minute but that goal did little more than avert the shutout.
Italy was missing Giorgio Chiellini and Mauro Camoranesi to injury, but it fielded a strong team nonetheless. On this night, however, Mexico was much better -- a fact Italian Coach Marcello Lippi blamed on his team's altitude training. The Italians, who have played just once previously this year, have spent the last 10 days in the Italian Alps preparing for their World Cup defense while for Mexico Thursday's game was its fourth in less than two weeks.
"I know my players, I have spoken to them and they told me they were tired before the game," Lippi said. "What's important is to be in good condition in 10 days when we are in South Africa, not now. If we had played seven games like they did then we would have been in better condition."
Mexican Coach Javier Aguirre graciously agreed, saying the game was next to meaningless.
"It's a friendly," he said. "Zero points for both teams. I'm not going to give it more importance than it deserves.
"But it's always nice to beat a team like Italy."
Aguirre said earlier in the week that the lineup he sent out against Italy would likely be the one he would start June 11 against South Africa. And it was one that had Oscar Perez in goal and Vela, Javier Hernandez and Giovana Dos Santos up front. Yet Mexico's first chance came off the foot of midfielder Gerardo Torrado, whose clean shot from just outside the box was wide.
Vela didn't miss when he got a chance eight minutes later, though, taking a pass from Dos Santos and blasting it into the net. And with that, the rout was on.
The attacking offense Lippi was supposedly working on in camp was nowhere to be seen -- nor was the Italian defense, which allowed Mexico 15 shots. El Tri also controlled the ball for nearly 60 of the 90 minutes.
Mexico's second goal, in the 84th minute, came after Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Medina, both of whom came off the bench in the second half, got together with Blanco's chipped pass setting Medina up perfectly for the score.
Bonucci halved the advantage five minutes later.
"Beating Italy is a great satisfaction, as it's always hard to defeat a team at this level. And we did it in style," Aguirre said. "[But] it's a warm-up match, and it will only give us a morale boost."
-- Kevin Baxter in Brussels