Croatia 1 Mexico 3: Highlights, key battles and what the result means
Published on Jun 24, 2014 6:43 AM
A tense and tight match burst into life with 20 minutes left, as Mexico stormed to a three-goal lead in 10 whirlwind minutes to eventually beat 10-man Croatia 3-1 in Recife.
Goals from Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez sent their fans delirious with joy as they sealed second spot in Group A and book a last-16 clash with the Netherlands.
Croatia pulled a goal back through Ivan Perisic, but then had Ante Rebic sent off for a nasty tackle on Carlos Alberto Pena.
The match had looked like heading for a goalless draw until the 72nd minute, when Mexico captain Marquez capitalised on some slacking marking to head home a corner.
Croatia, who needed a win to advance, poured forward to seek two goals, and were caught out by a swift Mexico attack which ended in Guardado slotting the ball home for a 2-0 lead.
Soon it was 3-0 in the 82nd minute, as Hernandez found himself totally unmarked in front of goal following a well-worked corner routine, and the Manchester United striker easily headed home.
Perisic pulled a goal back for demoralised Croatia three minutes from time, but the match ended on an ugly note as Rebic was shown a straight red card as he lunged recklessly into Pena.
Few would have thought that the best defensive side at the World Cup come from Central America, but Mexico have not let in a single goal in their first two group matches.
Croatia, fresh from their 4-0 rout of Cameroon, started both Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic in an attempt to break down Mexico's resolute defence and in-form goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
It failed to reap goals, however, as the Mexico defence led by Marquez kept Croatia at bay until they had a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Man of the Match
Rafael Marquez is a veteran of four World Cup campaigns for Mexico, and he showed why he is their inspirational captain with a towering performance.
From marshalling his defence astutely, the former Barcelona player to scoring the all-important first goal that settled the tension within his team.
What the result means
Mexico set up a last-16 tie with the formidable Netherlands, who won all three of their Group B matches. Yet Mexico will not be pushovers with their in-form defenders. If they can keep up their scoring touch, they will prove a handful for the Dutch.
For Croatia, they had talented players in Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mandzukic, but rarely looked like a cohesive team. A big win against Cameroon is sandwiched by two dispiriting 1-3 losses to Brazil and Mexico. Coach Niko Kovac will have plenty to think about as they exit the World Cup.