Japan and Mexico will be out to avoid finishing bottom of FIFA Confederations Cup Group A, when they meet in Belo Horizonte on Saturday.
Mexico have not managed a goal from open play, and that toothlessness has ultimately cost them, despite some enterprising play in their games against Italy and Brazil. Japan's tournament has been mixed; they struggled against Brazil in the opening match, but against Italy produced one of the best games international football has seen in a long time.
Alberto Zaccheroni's side produced some flowing football, raced into a 2-0 lead and were unlucky not to have recorded a victory given they hit the bar three times and saw a goal disallowed, however a 4-3 defeat sees them eliminated from the competition with one game to play.
Japan's recent form has only seen them win one of the previous six matches, four of which have been defeats, however, their form in World Cup qualifying was spectacular and they were the first side to qualify for the 2014 finals in Brazil. They topped their group with 17 points from eight matches, picking up five wins on the way to finishing four points clear of second-place Australia.
Playmakers Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda impressed against Italy with their movement and creativity, both players also got on the scoresheet in the first half and were unlucky not to add to their tally in the second.
Kagawa somehow missed a close-range header in front of an open goal and Honda saw a late shot deflect onto the crossbar with Gianluigi Buffon beaten. Honda top-scored in the last round of AFC qualifying with five goals and is likely to attract plenty of interest ahead of the European transfer window.
Mexico's troubles in the opening two games of the competition reflect their recent problems in World Cup qualifying, a lack of goals has hindered them and with four games to go, they are fighting for a top-three place with Honduras and Panama.
Jose Manuel de la Torre's side have only scored four goals in their last eight competitive matches, including friendlies that extends to seven goals in 11 games. They know that they cannot qualify from Group A in this competition but will be hoping they can lift their morale to perform better in their final four qualifying matches.
Javier Hernandez, who scored their only goal so far in Brazil, appears to be the only real goal threat Mexico have available to them, the Manchester United forward has scored five of their last seven goals and if Japan can keep him under control, they will be confident they can pick up a win.
If they do so, it will be their first ever victory over Mexico, they have only met twice before with the North American side winning on both occasions. The last clash came in the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany, with Mexico winning 2-1 in Hannover as they finished top of their group, before a penalty-shootout defeat to Argentina in the final four.
|Coach: A. Zaccheroni|
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