THE DAY REPLAYED –  If the first halves of Italy-Brazil and Japan-Mexico somewhat failed to fire, the second halves were frantic and fabulous, witnessing seven goals as Group A finished on a real high.

 The opening goal in Salvador was straight out of a storybook. Only on the field because of an injury to David Luiz, Bayern Munich defender Dante scored in his hometown and his first competitive game as the hosts took the lead just before half-time. Almost 850 miles away in Belo Horizonte, the crowd went wild at the news of the goal. They were to be off their seats in both cities a further three times after the break as a Freddouble and another moment of brilliance from Neymar ensured they finished at the section’s summit. Although Emanuele Giaccherini and Giorgio Chiellini were on target for Gli Azzurri, this was the first time since the final of UEFA EURO 2012 that Italy have conceded four goals.

In the group’s other game at the Estadio Mineirao, Mexico continued their recent fine run over Asian opposition with a 2-1 win over Japan. El Tri have now enjoyed success against teams from the AFC in their last five matches. This was a deserved and welcome victory for Jose Manuel De La Torre and his men, who had won only one of their 11 games in 2013. Two headers from Javier Hernandez gave them all three points, with the Manchester United man missing a late penalty following Shinji Okazaki’s consolation. Japan, who impressed in their 4-3 loss to Italy appeared out of sorts in this match, with coach Alberto Zaccheroni a frustrated figure on the touchline.

Group A
Italy 2-4 Brazil Giaccherini 51’, Chiellini 71’; Dante 45+1', Neymar 55’, Fred 66’, 89’)
Japan 1-2 Mexico (Okazaki 86’; Hernandez 54’, 66’)

What it means…
The facts are that Brazil as group winners will travel to Belo Horizonte for a game against the runners-up of Group B on Wednesday, while Italy have 24 hours more rest to face Group B’s winners in Fortaleza. Many are predicting two continental clashes with Brazil facing Uruguay and Italy facing Spain, but all will be revealed tomorrow. Cesare Prandelli’s side will have to go into that game – and the rest of the tournament without Ignazio Abate, who damaged his shoulder against A Seleção.

Goal of the day
Neymar (BRA)
There have already been some some wonderful free-kicks in this tournament, but the this one from Neymar will take some beating. The Arena Fonte Nova buzzed with anticipation as he stepped up to take it and they were not to be disappointed. He clipped the ball over the wall and into the side netting. Gianluigi Buffon was close to it, but stood no chance. The Barcelona man has now scored three goals in this tournament, each one memorable in their own right, but he is still one away from Fernando Torres who currently leads the race for the adidas Golden Boot.

Stat of the day
35 –
There was an interesting coincidence in the Japan-Mexico game as the two main goal threats from either side, namely Javier Hernandez and Shinji Okazaki ended their respective FIFA Confederations Cups on the same tally of international goals. The Manchester United man’s double and Okazaki’s consolation left both players on 35 as they head home from Brazil 2013.

Quote of the day
“He's an idol for Brazilian people and for everyone that likes football. He’s a genius. He had so many quality moments in the match, but the one that was decisive was his free kick. He noticed that Buffon had taken an extra step to his right and he put the ball into the other corner. Only a genius can do something like that,” Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil coach.

What’s next?...
The outcome of Group B will be decided on Sunday. In theory, the four teams have everything to play for. Mathematically, they can all still qualify for the semi-finals and also exit the competition. 

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