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World Cup: Mexico-Croatia 1-0, Italy-Ecuador 2-0 - 2002-06-03

During World Cup football play in Japan, Mexico defeated Croatia 1-0 in Niigata, while Italy overpowered Ecuador 2-0 in Sapporo.

Mexico dominated Croatia for most of the game, but the match was scoreless until the 60th minute.

That is when Croatia's Boris Zivkovic was red-carded for fouling Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the box. Blanco easily converted the ensuing penalty kick, giving Mexico its margin for the 1-0 win.

Strong goaltending from Mexico's Oscar Perez kept Croatia off the scoreboard. Coach Javier Aguirre says it was not an easy win. "This was difficult," he said. "The Croatians play a really hard football. But it is a dream."

In the late match Christian Vieri tallied a pair of goals in the first half, as Italy dominated Ecuador for a 2-0 victory.

The Italian star blasted a crossing pass into the net in the seventh minute, then made it 2-0 in the 27th as he took a long pass through Ecuador's defense to tally from close range.

Despite the loss, Ecuador can take heart from holding the powerful Italian side to two goals in the South Americans' first-ever World Cup finals match. Ecuador coach Hernan Dario Gomez talks about the game. "Italy has a strong team, a lot of attack," he said. "We also have our own style, but we still had a good performance."

Italy and Mexico now have three points each to top the Group G standings.

Co-host Japan opens its World Cup campaign in the only match scheduled Tuesday in Japan. They will take on Belgium in a Group H clash in Saitama.