The Aztecs return to Mexico as Tokyo 2020 bronze medalists with a dominant 3-1 win over host-nation Japan. The London 2012 gold medalists notched two first-half goals and scored a third just after half-time. Japan did their best to find a way into the game but ultimately fell short with an inferior display on the night.
A spot-kick goal from Francisco Cordova and a header from Johan Vasquez gave Mexico a comfortable lead to finish the first half. The Aztecs had dominated the run of play with Japan offering very little attacking threat.
Alexis Vega converted Cordova's corner kick with a clean header past the Japan keeper to make it 3-0 shortly after the break. Following this, tenacious attacking midfielder Kaoru Mitoma was brought on and made an instant impact. He cut through the Mexico defense and fired past veteran keeper Guillermo Ochoa to give the hosts a glimmer of hope.
Japan would gain a foothold in the game but struggled to produce any clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities. Chance after chance would go begging and Hajime Moriyasu's men were seemingly out of ideas. Their desperation was all too obvious when lumpy center-back Maya Yoshida was sent up front in the hope that he might beat the Mexico defense.
At the final whistle, there was jubilation for the Mexicans as the Japanese were reduced to tears. Real Madrid's Takefusa Kubo was visibly distraught as players from both sides tried to console him.
Despite losing to Japan in the group stages, Mexico produced a formidable performance at Tokyo 2020 and are sure to be optimistic about their chances at the next World Cup. Goalkeeper Ochoa is likely to hang up his boots with a bronze medal to cap off a sensational career with the Aztecs.
Japan, however, will now ask serious questions regarding the progress they have made under Moriyasu and what direction they take from their outing at Tokyo 2020. With a wealth of creative attacking talent that includes Takefusa Kubo, Ritsu Doan, Maoru Mitoma and Ao Tanaka there are sure to be concerns over the manner in which they have exited the tournament.
With so few chances created and even fewer goals scored, the Japanese Football Association must consider how this generation will fit together if they are to have any hopes of a tangible prize at Qatar 2022.
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