Mexico secure Last 16 spot


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The game opened up in the second period after a goalless first half as three Mexican goals in the space of ten minutes sent Croatia packing, before Ivan Perisic scored a consolation late-on, but it was too little too late for his side who exit the tournament after just three games.

Croatia knew they had it all to do heading into the encounter as only a win would guarantee them a place in the Last 16, and Niko Kovac’s men started the brighter of the two sides, winning two corners in quick succession, yet failed to trouble Guillermo Ochoa in the Mexican goal.

It was Mexico who had the best chance of the half however as Hector Herrera’s shot from distance rattled the crossbar on 16 minutes in what was Mexico’s first meaningful attempt of the match.

Mexico enjoyed a good spell of possession in the latter stages of the first period, yet were unable to convert any of their chances as the two sides headed into the break locked at 0-0.

Knowing they had to find a goal in the second half, Croatia started the last 45 minutes on the front foot, yet poor decision making and wayward crosses in the final third resulted in no end product for the increasingly frustrated Kovac.

On 63 minutes, Mexico had a penalty appeal turned down after Andres Guardado’s volley struck the arm of a sliding Darijo Srna, much to the displeasure of a visibly incensed Mexican bench.

Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez, introduced as a second-half substitute, had his cross deflected out for a corner on 71 minutes, and from the resulting set-piece, veteran skipper Rafael Marquez headed home to give El Tri the lead.

It was 2-0 just three minutes later as Guardado side-footed home from close range after being left unmarked in the box, as Croatia’s slim chances of progression became less and less likely.

Gaps were opening up at the back as Croatia pushed forward, and their misery was compiled ten minutes from time as Hernandez headed another corner into the back of the net, sending the majority Mexican crowd into an absolute frenzy.

With four minutes left on the clock, Perisic brought one back for Croatia as he latched onto a neat Ivan Rakitic back-heel to tuck the ball home, yet the result had already been decided as his side – who finished the encounter with ten men after a reckless studs up challenge by substitute Ante Rebic two minutes from the end – ended up as 3-1 losers on the night.

Mexico’s victory means they will face Group B winners Holland in the Round of 16, while Brazil take on Chile in their next encounter in the knockout stages of the tournament.