Neymar's early goal paced Brazil to a 2-0 shutout over Mexico, while Italy squeaked by in a shootout with Japan in a 4-3 final Wednesday. Both wins were expected, although Italy's defensive struggles could portend some trouble. The two teams head to the Confederation semifinals, which will be played June 26 and 27.
The home team was set up by Neymar's ninth-minute volley past Mexico keeper Jose Corona. He also assisted a goal in the 90th minute to Jo, compensating for a previous Brazil put-in that was called offsides. Though Mexico actually held possession in the first half, Brazil dominated the pace of the game and looked defensively sharp.
Italy, meanwhile, didn't move past Japan quite as easily. Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa coupled for two early goals to give Japan a sizable lead, surprising against Italy's Gianluigi Buffon, one of the best keepers in the world. Coach Cesare Prandelli switched things up by plugging in forward Sebastian Giovinco, giving Italy a stronger attack that responded by striking with Daniele De Rossi's header in the 41st minute.
The second half was far more auspicious for Italy, who evened the score after a cross to star forward Mario Balotelli was inadvertently tapped in by Japan defender Atsuto Uchida. The own goal drew things even at 2-2, and just two minutes later, Balotelli struck with a score of his own. Italy's three goals in 11 minutes gave them all the momentum as the second half rolled on.
Japan's Shinji Okazaki broke the tie in the 69th minute with a header off a free kick, but Italy's Sebastian Giovinco tapped in a pass from De Rossi for the deciding score in the 86th. The match was the second-highest scoring in tournament history, only behind an 8-2 blowout between Brazil and Saudi Arabia in 1999.
Brazil earns its ninth consecutive Confederation win and joins Italy in the semis. The two will meet Saturday to round out Group A play, while Mexico and Japan square off as well despite being unable to advance past the group stage. Spain and Tahiti and Nigeria and Uruguay play in Group B Thursday.