Mexico put three goals past Croatia to set up a last 16 tie with Holland. Rafael Marquez, Andreas Guardado and Javier Hernandez scored the all-important goal, as Ante Rebic saw red for the Croats.
Despite knowing that a draw would be enough, Mexico but Croatia to the sword. Croatia needed the win, in was Mexico who created the best goal scoring opportunities. Hector Herrera came closest during the first half, as his rocket left-foot shot thundered off the crossbar.
Oribe Perelta also had a good chance towards the end of the first half, but slipped at the decisive moment.
With the match in the balance after an hour, and Croatia in need of a goal, they began to throw numbers forward, to their detriment.
Mexico countered, and were denied a penalty, first after a suspected push on substitute Javier Hernandez, before Andres Guardado, goal-bound shot appeared to be stopped by the arms of Croatia captain Darijo Srna.
The Mexicans almost scored directly from the resulting corner, with Herrera’s deep corner requiring Vedran Corluka to make a last-ditch headed clearance off the line.
Croatia clearly didn’t learn their lesson, as minutes later, Mexico were ahead. Captain Rafael Marquez rose highest from a corner and headed past Pletikosa, sending Mexico boss Miguel Herrera into hysterics.
Croatia needed goals, and in their pursuit of an equaliser, left gaps for Mexico to exploit, and it only to three minutes for the Aztecs to double their lead. Perelta found Guardado unmarked in the area with a square pass, who fired high into the Croatia net to seal the win.
The European side nearly found and instant response, as Rebic evaded two challenges and beat Ochoa, but Moreno came to the rescue, sliding in at the far post and blocking the shot.
Corners definitely seemed to be the enemy of Croatia, and again it was their undoing, as Javier Hernandez put further daylight between the two sides. He had the simple task of heading in Marquez’s flick on at point blank range.
With three goals, Mexico harboured ambitions of topping the group in their attempts to avoid Holland. At this point in the game, with Brazil 3-1 up at the time, the Mexicans needed only a one more goal to snatch top spot.
But Croatia found a consolation. Ivan Persic latched onto Ivan Rakitic’s back heel and fired low past Ochoa, becoming the first player to score past the Mexicans in the tournament.
Despite this , Niko Kovac’s side knew qualification was a pipe dream, with only three minutes left. Facing the harsh reality of World Cup exit at the group stage, tempers flared, and Rebic earned himself a needless red card for a dangerously high challenge with studs showing on Pena.
Perisic’s goal, coupled with Fernandinho scoring Brazil’s fourth saw their dreams of finishing top diminished. But the Mexican will be more than happy with World Cup progression, and will no doubt prove to be stern opposition for Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch side.
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