Belo Horizonte, 21 JUNE: Despite a gruelling if successful World Cup qualifying campaign Japan came to the Confederations Cup full of hope while expectations were high for fellow Group A aspirants and Olympic champions Mexico.
Yet less than a week into the tournament there is nothing left to play for but pride as the pair prepare to lock horns in Belo Horizonte on Saturday after neither managed to get any change out of hosts Brazil or Italy.
If a passive Japan had shown the kind of fluid and adventurous play they showed in patches against the Italians in Wednesday’s thrilling 4-3 defeat in Recife rather than the meek form of their opener which brought a 3-0 defeat by Brazil they might just have had a chance of a semifinal berth.
Likewise, had Mexico not fallen victim to a late Mario Balotelli sucker punch in their first pool game they might have gone into their meeting with the Brazilians believing they could extend a strong recent run against the auriverde which notably brought an Olympic gold medal last year at the Samba stars’ expense.
Instead, both sides have zero points and will bow out on the final whistle and whereas Japan at least know they will be back in 12 months for the World Cup the Mexicans still have work to do in their CONCACAF North and Central American zonal qualifying programme following a raft of frustrating draws.
Japan’s Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni said after the loss to the Italians after Surrendering a 2-0 lead that he could take some positives.
"I think we did show we have a lot of personality, though we need to accumulate more experience," he said. afp