Mexico looked more lively and dangerous on Sunday against Italy than they have in any of their previous matches in 2013, but they had no answer for the attacking quality of the Azzurri. The match remained tied late into the second half, but Italy netted a deserved winner in the 77th minute to defeat El Tri, 2-1.
The Italians were the more dangerous side in the early going, but Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona kept his team in the game with fantastic early saves on Mario Balotelli in the 6th and 8th minutes. Andres Guardado hit back for Mexico in the 11th minute, forcing Gianluigi Buffon into an excellent save on a rocket of a shot that looked headed for the top corner.
Andrea Pirlo, who made his 100th appearance for Italy on the night, scored the opener with a brilliant free kick in the 26th minute. Gerardo Torrado conceded the set piece, taking down Balotelli 25 yards from goal. Pirlo stepped up and curled an absolute stunner into the top corner, giving Corona no chance to make a save.
However, Italy didn't retain the lead long. An uncharacteristic defensive mistake by Andrea Barzagli led to Mexico's equalizer in the 32nd minute. He committed a silly foul on Giovani dos Santos in the penalty area and referee Enrique Osses pointed to the spot. 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez stepped up and buried the penalty, leveling the score at 1-1.
Early in the second half, Jose Manuel de la Torre made a defensive substitution, taking off Javier Aquino and putting on defender Hiram Mier, moving right back Gerardo Flores into midfield. While Italy were less effective attacking down their left flank for the rest of the game, Mexico looked less dangerous down their right.
Not long after the free kick, Italy had an excellent chance to equalize through Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo had another free kick on the edge of the box, but this time opted to try to play the ball under the jumping wall of El Tri defenders. His shot deflected and fell to Marchisio, but he hit a weak shot right into the arms of Corona. Marchisio was poor on the night, being substituted not long afterwards for Alessio Cerci.
That substitution moved Emanuele Giaccherini into the center of the pitch, and it made all the difference. With Giaccherini resuming the second striker role he played years ago at Cesena, not the left-sided role he's played for Juventus and Italy over the last two years, he combined with Balotelli expertly and set up the winner. His chip into the box fell to Balotelli, who steamrolled 'Maza' Francisco Rodriguez before touching a shot past Corona from the edge of the six-yard box.
Mexico made a desperate substitution in an attempt to get back into the game, bringing on striker Raul Jimenez for midfielder Jesus Zavala, but never looked like they had an equalizer in them.