Mexico has drawn Italy 1-1 to win Group G with seven points, while Ecuador surprised Croatia 10 in World Cup play in Japan Thursday night. The results mean that in addition to Mexico, Italy advances to the second round with four points.
Mexico controlled the midfield and it paid off in the 34th minute. Jared Borgetti's acrobatic mid-air twist allowed him to head the ball into the net and give the Central Americans the 1-0 lead.
Mexico went into a defensive shell with 15 minutes remaining, but couldn't hold off Alessandro Del Piero, who headed in the equalizer in the 85th minute. In what some considered an embarrassing display, Mexico passed the ball around unopposed in its own end until the whistle sealed the 1-1 final.
Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni was glad to make it to the second round. "It was a lot of pressure on the Italian team, also from the Italian fans, and he says he was very happy," he said. "It was a very hard game for Italy and he was very happy they could finally score this very, very important goal."
Here in Yokohama, Ecuador and Croatia appeared evenly matched in a cautious first half. Croatia's Alen Boksic had the only real scoring chances, but rattled one shot off the post and had the other headed off the line by defender Augusto Poroso.
Ecuador turned the tables three minutes into the second half, as Edison Mendez tallied for the 1-0 lead. Driven by desperation, Croatia pressed for the equalizer the rest of the match. Ecuador's defense bent but refused to break, as they held on for the shutout, eliminating Croatia from the tournament.
Croatian coach Mirko Jozic emphasized his team did not stick to its strategy. "The plan from the beginning was to play [the defense] at least 30 meters in front of the goal, because we new that the strongest part of Ecuador's team was the short passing game," he explained. "But I don't know what happened, but they just withdrew back in front of the goal."
In South Korean play Thursday, Brazil eliminated Costa Rica with a 5-2 win, while Turkey also advanced with a 3-0 win over China. On Friday, group play wraps up in Japan, as the co-hosts play Tunisia in Osaka, while Belgium and Russia battle for a second round spot from Group H in Shizuoka.