World Cup 2014: Croatia v Mexico

CRO 1 – 3 MEX: A frenetic game of football came to a breathtaking crescendo at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife as four goals in the last eighteen minutes settled who would go through to the knockout stage along with hosts Brazil. Both teams looked to gain the upper hand in the first half and it was Mexico who produced the best effort on goal through a stunning thirty yard strike from flamboyant young midfielder Héctor Herrera that cannoned back of the Croatia crossbar. It was end to end stuff at times with strikers Peralta for Mexico and for Mandžukić for Croatia coming close with half chances. Croatia lacked fluidity in midfield mainly thanks to the hard-working Mexican midfield, and Modrić did not get to influence the game in the way he would have liked to. It was an old head who produced the breakthrough – Mexico captain Rafael Márquez rose highest to head the ball past Pletikosa and give his side the advantage. Croatia, knowing only a win would be good enough to send them through, pushed more men forward in search of an equaliser. That suited a counter-attacking Mexico who furthered their lead thanks to a flowing move that was clinically finished off with a fantastic strike high into the net from Andrés Guardado. Croatia’s heads were down and Chicharito poached a third which was extremely harsh on Croatia but good reward for Mexico’s endeavour. Ivan Perišić has had a fantastic World Cup and did not deserve to be on the losing side today. He grabbed a brilliant consolation for Croatia who will be disappointed that they could not realise their potential here tonight. Mexico’s wild celebrations were led by their ecstatic coach Miguel Herrera who flung himself on his team, back room staff and even the floor at one stage. A little more class may have been more appropriate but there were respectful words between him and Kovac at the end which was nice to see. Mexico now face a tricky tie against the Netherlands but they will be buoyed by this win and will know that if they produce a similar performance then they will at least give themselves a chance to progress.

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