The Mexican National Team defeated Croatia 3-1 at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil to advance to the Round of 16 for the sixth time in a row in FIFA World Cup action. Mexico, team that qualified to Brazil 2014 on a playoff against New Zealand, is the second CONCACAF region team to qualify to the Round of 16 this tournament. Costa Rica is in, Mexico is in, and the USMNT can earn their pass against Germany later this week.
Croatia came out with full force in the first 10 minutes of play pushing the Mexicans back on their side of the pitch. They had their best shots in those first minutes, but later gave up possession of the ball. El Tri took control and played from the center circle forward. Croatia was in place for a counterattack.
Hector Herrera had Mexico’s best shot in the 15th, but hit the top far corner. Four minutes later, Oribe Peralta received a filtered pass in the area, but stumbled to send the ball wide. Most of the game was played on the Croatian side of the pitch as they were saving energy to do a counter run. A dangerous combination by Mexico in the 40th was the last big effort from both teams and the game went to break at 0-0.
Croatia once again began the game on the attack, but the weather began to take its toll on the eastern Europeans. The Croats held back waiting on a counter opportunity that would really never come against a Mexican squad that insisted from the start.
Mexico would take the lead in the 71st minute on a corner kick. Rafael Marquez elevated and beat out the Croatian defense to put the ball in the ground past goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa for the 1-0. This is Marquez’ third goal in a world cup tournament. The crowd went wild and the singing began in Recife.
Less than three minutes later the Mexicans did it again. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez took the ball into the area and passed to Peralta. The former Santos Laguna player crossed to Andres Guardado who had no one on him. Guardado fired to give Mexico the 2-0 lead.
The Croatians woke up for a few minutes as they saw the world cup slip away and went on full force. But the humidity and heat played a big part and the Europeans could do nothing. Hector Moreno saved Mexico in the 78th minute to keep the scoreboard from moving.
But two goals were not enough for El Tri. Marquez moved up on attack and sliced the ball with his head to Chicharito who beat his markers in the area and headed the ball into the net for the 3-0 in the 82nd minute. Chicharito returned to scoring with El Tri one year and one day after his last goal with the national team.
The Mexican defense relaxed too much after the goal and two minutes later Ivan Perisic ended goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s perfect pass through Brazil 2014. Ochoa managed 266 minutes without receiving a goal.
The frustration kicked in for the Croatians as time ran down. Ante Rebic lost his head and in a un-sportsman like contact was sent off the pitch. Mexico held out and took the game. El Tri will face The Netherlands in the Round of 16.