Mexico recorded the most impressive result of their World Cup warm-up matches by beating defending champions Italy 2-1 on Thursday.
Beaten 3-1 by England and 2-1 by the Netherlands in their previous two outings against top-level opposition last week, the Central Americans bounced back to give Marcello Lippi’s lackluster side a lesson in pace and application.
“We played a good match, but we should have scored a lot more goals,” Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said. “It’s my only regret. Beating Italy is a real satisfaction. It’s always difficult to beat a team of this level and we did it in style. Having said that, we have to keep perspective. It’s a result that gives us a boost, but it was only a warm-up match.”
Mexico face hosts South Africa in the World Cup’s opening match on Friday and they will also tackle two-time winners Uruguay and 2006 finalists France in Group A.
On this evidence, they should not be taken lightly.
“Against a very determined Mexico, we were constantly second to the ball,” Lippi said.
“For a first warm-up match, there was definitely no worse opponent for us than Mexico,” he said. “Their players were very good physically. Our physical condition wasn’t as good as that of our opponents, but for the World Cup, we’ll be ready.”
Aguirre’s side, ranked 17th in the world to Italy’s fifth, took a 16th-minute lead when Arsenal forward Carlos Vela took advantage of slack marking to finish Giovani dos Santos’ cute pass with a crisp half-volley.
Italy began the game with a centerback pairing of skipper Fabio Cannavaro and Bari’s Leonardo Bonucci, but neither player was anywhere to be seen as Vela fired home.
The Azzurri defense was equally as static when Alberto Medina doubled Mexico’s lead in the 83rd minute.
Comfortable in possession and resourceful in midfield, Mexico dominated their opponents and were not troubled until Bonucci lashed in an 87th-minute consolation following a corner.
Italy, possibly tired following a long coach journey from their Sestrieres training base, lacked ideas in possession and were uncharacteristically hesitant in defense and had Mexico been a little sharper in front of goal, their margin of victory would have been even more handsome.
Lippi still appears unsure about how to configure his attack, with Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale — last season’s top scorer in Serie A — largely anonymous in the playmaking role during the first half.
Italy face Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand in the group phase.