FIFA U-17 World Cup holders Mexico beat Italy 2-0 in Abu Dhabi in their Round of 16 clash to book a place in the quarter-finals, where they will meet three-time champions Brazil. A goal in each half was enough to see the Mexicans, now fully recovered from their 6-1 mauling on opening day, back to their very best.
It took the Italians only 16 minutes of the game at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium to fashion their first chance. Federico Dimarco fired a decent-looking shot from distance that was tipped up over the bar by Raul Gudino. Two minutes later and it was Mexico’s turn to threaten. Ulises Jaimes - goal hero from the Group F win over Sweden - turned cleverly in the box, but he could only hit his volley over the crossbar.
El Tri then got it right after 26 minutes when Alejandro Diaz moved the ball toward the penalty area and fired from well out. His curling effort nestled into the top corner past the outstretched arm of Simone Scuffet in the Italian goal.
Both sides had chances to score as the half wound down, but Raul Gutierrez’s Mexico were able to protect their slim lead heading into the locker-room at the interval.
The Mexicans kept up their pressure at the start of the second half, but it was the Azzurrini who had the first effort of the period. Ivan De Santis swiveled and fired a shot toward the top corner that could only slip wide of the post. Mexico, who were committing fewer and fewer into attack, had a decent chance in the 72nd minute. Diaz’s cross flew in from wide to Marco Granados, whose shot from close in was saved by the brilliant Scuffet.
But while the Italians pressed for an equaliser, the wily Mexicans were alert to any openings on the counter-attack. Alberto Cerri’s shot over the bar in the 88th minute was the Europeans’ last best chance, and Christian Tovar supplied the killer ball for Mexico’s insurance goal deep into stoppage time. Ivan Ochoa did the honours, sliding home into an open net after Scuffet was stranded to make the final score 2-0.