Abu Dhabi: Mexico stayed on course to defend the title they won in 2011 when they beat Italy 2-0 in the second round of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on Monday.
Alejandro Diaz and Ivan Ochoa scored for Mexico after capitalising on two fatal blunders from Italy goalkeeper Simone Scuffet as the famously stingy Italian defence was ripped apart by the talented young Mexicans.
The Italians started the match the better of the two sides, pressing for an early goal, which failed to materialise.
It took the Italians only 16 minutes of the game to fashion their first chance. Federico Dimarco fired a decent-looking shot from distance that was tipped up over the bar by Raul Gudino. Two minutes later and it was Mexico’s turn to threaten. Ulises Jaimes – goal hero from the last Group F win over Sweden – turned cleverly in the box, but he could only hit his volley over the crossbar.
Mexico eventually went ahead following a fast counter attack when Diaz delightfully lobbed the ball over an advancing Scuffet from 30 yards in the 22nd minute.
The Italians nearly equalised in similar fashion when the Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino came off his line to punch the ball clear, only for it to fall to Antonio Romano, whose header hit the woodwork in the 38th minute.
In the second half, the Mexicans defended well and strung together fast counter attacks in response to the pressure exerted by the Italians, who tried everything to level the score but failed to due to imprecise finishing and a lack of concentration inside the penalty box.
The Mexicans kept up the pressure, but it was the Azzurrini who had the first effort of the period. Ivan De Santis swivelled and fired a shot toward the top corner that could only slip wide of the post. The Mexicans, who were committing fewer and fewer into attack, had a decent chance in the 72nd minute. Diaz’s cross flew in from wide to Marco Granados, whose shot from close in was saved by the brilliant Scuffet.
Italy missed a succession of sitters, but were also denied by some good defending from the Mexico defence and goalkeeper.
Ochoa sealed the win for the defending champions in the third minute of injury time when he tackled Scuffet, played in Christian Tovar on the left wing.
Tovar crossed the ball back to Ochoa, who slotted home the winner.