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Team of the Week
23 June 2014
• Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco
Referee: R. Irmatov
• Attendance: 41212
I. Perišić 87'
R. Márquez 72'
A. Guardado 75'
J. Hernández 82'
That's about all from me though. I've been Keeghann Sinanan, see you soon!
For Croatia, a tournament that started with a controversial loss to Brazil and continued with a thumping of Cameroon ends in tears. They simply were not able to test Ochoa tonight when they needed to.
Mexico finish level on points with Brazil, but the Selecao's superior goal difference guarantees them top spot and a date with Chile in the next round. Two enticing match ups on hand already.
A tightly contested first half was carved open by Mexico during a devastating spell. The crucial goal game first from Marquez, before further strikes from Guardado and Hernandez iced the game. Perisic's late consolation was almost an afterthought.
Three goals in ten minutes do the damage for El Tri. Mexico will go forward to play the Netherlands in the round of 16. Croatia meanwhile will be packing their bags for Zagreb tonight. Their World Cup is done.
90' + 5'
It's done! Mexico are through!
90' + 4'
The Mexican fans run through their full repertoire of chants now. They're biding their time until the final whistle for the inevitable explosion of euphoria. Moments away now...
90' + 3'
OCHOA SAVES! The Mexico keeper's reflexes have been widely hailed this summer and he gives another sterling demonstration of his abilities, getting down quickly to push away a crafty volley from Perisic. The referee then chalks off the play for a baffling infraction.
90' + 1'
Into the first of four minutes of added time. The hopes of a Mexico surge to take top spot are all but gone now. Make no mistake though, they're celebrating this win with gusto. Second place in Group A and a date with the Netherlands to come for El Tri and their fans.
Red CardAnte Rebić
Completely deserved red card for Rebic. After losing the ball, he channeled all of Croatia's anguish into his left boot, planting his studs into the shin of Pena. His shinpads saved the Mexico man from something gruesome, and the referee immediately pulls out the red.
REBIC SENT OFF IN FRUSTRATION!
A well worked goal from Croatia that is enough to get Kovac off his seat. Rakitic sets the play up with a glorious backheel from just inside the box, and Perisic responds with a neat finish drilled into the far corner. Very much a typical Perisic goal, that - his second of the tournament to boot.
PERISIC PULLS ONE BACK!
BRASILIA UPDATE: The host nation have made it 4-1 against Cameroon! This now requires Mexico to score two in six minutes to top the group! For those interested or those who fancy the impossible, Croatia could still qualify with four goals in the same time span.
Mexico running well away with it now! The corner comes in from the right, and Marquez wins it in the air again. He flicks it towards Hernandez, who nods in neatly at the far post!
WHICH CHICHARITO DULY TUCKS HOME!
Peralta played his part with a lovely assist for his side's second, and his night is done. He departs for Pena. Mexico are still in the hunt for more goals as Hernandez just misses connecting on Guardado's diagonal feed inside the box, but there's still a corner to come...
There's still a small chance for Mexico to clinch top spot in Group A, if they score two more goals without reply before the final whistle. But instead, they nearly concede one when Moreno has to slide in at the very last to spectacularly hack away Rebic's goalbound shot!
I don't think that I'm being too presumptuous now in detailing the first set of knockout stage ties. Unless Croatia do the impossible, Mexico are set to face the Netherlands, while Brazil will square off against Chile. Two magnificent ties on hand for later in the week!
That will do it in Recife! Mexico ruthlessly punish Croatia's sudden commitment of men forward. Hernandez spreads the ball neatly to Peralta, who angles a low cross to the far post, where Guardado is on hand to smash home the clincher with aplomb!
GUARDADO SEALS IT!
Brazil are still up comfortably against Cameroon. Croatia now need two goals to have a prayer. Rakitic recognizes the sudden gravity of their plight, driving down the right to drill a potentially critical cross that flashes across the face of goal, but reaches a Mexican defender first!
Leading by example! What an inspirational header from the captain! The corner is swung in from the left, and Marquez leaps high above Corluka to plant the header into the bottom corner, despite a helping hand from Pletikosa! Could that be that?
WHICH MARQUEZ CONVERTS!
Mexico are the side dominating things here in Recife, looking far more likely to break the deadlock. It's exactly the opposite of what you would expect. They win yet another corner...
Free kick called against Modric and Kovac takes the opportunity to make another change. Rebic, who really tortured Cameroon off the bench during his last outing in this tournament, will enter the fray. Departing is Olic, who was really disappointing this evening after such an impressive opening two games in Group A.
Mexico try to use that slight to fuel their fires in the final third. Aguilar has really come to the fore in an attacking sense in the second half. He lets loose with an ambitious effort that forces Pletikosa to react! Moments before that play, Vazquez was booked for a lazy foul.
Yellow CardJ. Vázquez
The referee does not give either decision in Mexico's favour. It's only a corner for El Tri, which Croatia nervously manage to get a hold of. The replays show a clear handball by Srna. It was not intentional, but he made no effort to get his hands out of the way! Croatia get away with one!
MEXICO ARE INCENSED! And they may have a right to be! Aguilar hooks in a glorious ball into the area. Guardado chests it and slams it towards the far post, and it appears to take a significant nick off the forearm of Srna! There were calls for a foul on Hernandez in that play too!
On comes Hernandez, with Dos Santos sacrificed for the Manchester United striker. He'll aim to keep the Croatia defence on their toes in the latter stages, offering his side an outlet on the counter if the Vatreni lay siege to Ochoa's goal in the closing stages.
Giovani dos Santos
Just over an hour played in Recife and the tempo of the match has really been simmered down. This all plays right into Mexico's hands. The status quo suits their purposes. Looks like Herrera will be making a change of his own shortly, with Hernandez warming up.
Croatia need a goal now, but it's not happening at all for them in the final third. In fact, Mexico have been on top in the last few minutes. The time is ripe now for Kovac to make that sub. On comes Kovacic and off goes Vrsaljko. This pushes Pranjic to left back as the Inter man takes the mantle in the middle of the park.
First change of the game seems set to be made as Kovacic, the Inter Milan midfielder, is being given some final instruction down on the touchline. Pranjic or Vrsaljko look the most likely candidates to be replaced.
Aguilar spots Dos Santos in some space right on the toes of the Croatia backline. He tries to cause havoc with a raking ball, but Lovren sees it all the way to Pletikosa.
Modric sprays a crossfield pass to Pranjic on the left hand side. Mandzukic peels forward to the far post, but Pranjic delivers the cross prematurely, leading to a goal kick.
It's an interesting decision on hand for Herrera now. No doubt he's heard about events in Brasilia, which leave his side needing only a draw to progress. Does he hold on to this scoreline and throw the invitation to Croatia to attack even further? Or does he risk going for the insurance goal?
BRASILIA UPDATE: Fred has gotten off the mark for the first time this summer to put the Selecao 3-1 up against Cameroon. Looks like Brazil have top spot all but wrapped up.
Hearts in mouths for a moment for Mexico, as Mandzukic races onto a Rakitic through ball, but the referee again comes to the fore, backing his assistant's call of an offside as Ochoa collects.
Croatia continue to put pressure in the final third. They narrowly see a corner flash to the far post, but the referee deems the play illegitimate due to a yet unseen foul.
No changes at the break from either side. Croatia have a chance to get the ball rolling with a free kick deep down the right hand side, but Mexico's defence manages to get it clear uneasily.
Here we go again!
With Brazil up 2-1 at the break against Cameroon, the onus is squarely on Croatia to break the deadlock. Mexico can quite happily take this scoreline all the way into the second round.
Croatia though have held the more concerted spells of pressure, looking the side more sure of themselves in the attacking third. They've lacked the cutting edge of their opponents though. Ochoa has not seriously been tested.
Croatia and Mexico have both had their moments, though El Tri have come the closest to scoring. Herrera cracked an excellent shot against the woodwork, before Peralta slipped moments before applying the finish on a one-on-one opportunity.
The pressure of the occasion began to tell towards the end of the half, as both teams began to act a little ornery towards each other. Not entirely surprising, it's do or die here in Recife!
45' + 4'
That's it for the first half.
45' + 3'
The referee is made to earn his corn again to split the latest disagreement, this time between Corluka and Aguilar. The Mexico left back went in a little strong on a header, giving the Croatia man cause for complaint.
45' + 2'
The fires eventually quell enough for Rakitic to whip in the free kick. It's Peralta of all people back making the key defensive header, particularly with Corluka breathing down his neck.
45' + 1'
Into the first of two added minutes as a late challenge by Guardado on Srna sees the Croatia captain take umbrage. They square up head to head and the referee, not for the first time, has to intervene!
Modric is almost caught with his hand in the cookie jar right outside his own box. However, the referee bails him out of his spot of bother by calling a foul on Herrera.
Some animosity and bad blood sewn in that last bit of handbags. Perhaps just as well that we're moments away from the break as both sides could use a cool down. Herrera too, as he's been warned by the assistant referee against continuing his dialogue on the touchline.
The resulting corner is flicked on neatly by Aguilar and Pletikosa is struggling to get to the ball ahead of Moreno's challenge. However, the referee calls a foul and has to rush into the six yard area to pull apart a throng of players engaged in some trash talk.
Croatia pack numbers in their box to defend against the latest Mexico attack, which sees Layun's snap shot from 15 yards deflected narrowly out for a corner, with Pletikosa struggling!
This is prime territory for Croatia skipper Srna. He's cracked in a few free kicks from exactly this range. However, after some buildup, he can't get his effort up and down - over the bar in the end.
Yellow CardRafa Márquez
Perisic streams forward on a promising Croatia break, but Mandzukic can't sort out the angle of his run in time. This leads the Wolfsburg man to go it alone, and Marquez has to bring him down on the edge of the box before he pulls the trigger. Yellow for Rafa.
Srna has to react quickly to slide the ball away from Guardado, conceding a corner in the process. Not for the first time though, Mexico cannot threaten from the set piece.
BRASILIA UPDATE: Brazil have gotten the script back on track by re-taking the lead against Cameroon. Neymar has once again got his name on the scoresheet - four goals in the tourney now, making him the top scorer for the time being.
Dos Santos and Modric get tangled up right in front of the benches. To hear the reaction in this stadium, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Real Madrid man had violated one of the ten commandments. The referee though awards nothing more than a free kick.
We've largely seen both teams' offensive endeavors culminate with shots from outside the box. The quality of those efforts has not been terrible by any stretch though and with the slippery conditions, it may well end up being a worthwhile approach.
Croatia have settled back into the ascendancy here. After that 10 minute spell of Mexican pressure, the Vatreni have regained control, deliberately slowing down the tempo and waiting for the right gap to exploit.
CROATIA TESTER! Mandzukic does excellently to bring down a challenging ball and lay it off for Perisic, who needs no invitation to shoot from 20 yards, missing the crossbar narrowly.
That goal in Brasilia doesn't change a whole lot as things stand, with Brazil and Mexico still set to progress in that order. However, one Croatia goal and they will suddenly move first!
PRANJIC! Snap shot from the former Bayern utility man is sent a little too close to home for Ochoa's liking. The Mexican keeper nervously watches it sail about a foot over.
BRASILIA UPDATE: How about this - Cameroon have drawn level against the tournament hosts! Joel Matip, possibly the best of a terrible Cameroonian bunch during the farce against Croatia, has come up with the goods!
A very harmonious atmosphere in the stands, with the Mexico fans, as ever, making a really enthralling spectacle of it. The Croatian fans have played their part too, but they're simply outnumbered!
Olic has probably been Croatia's best player at the tournament so far. However, he's been very quiet this evening. Aguilar and Rodriguez have recognized his danger on that left flank.
Still no goals here but not for the lack of trying, particularly from a Mexican perspective. Croatia started the better, but they've had the woodwork and the wet turf to thank for keeping the game at a stalemate.
Mexico, on a few defensive possessions, are switching to four at the back, with Marquez anchoring the space just in front of the defensive line. A versatile approach from Herrera and Co.
The ball is skidding willingly along the turf. Recife was under some rain earlier in the day, which has given the pitch a bit of zip. Peralta's slip up moments ago is testament to that.
This is much more like it from Mexico. Croatia look somewhat unsure of themselves when the waves of green and black run at them. Herrera must be pleased with the improvement on the sidelines.
PERALTA SLIPS! Another glorious chance for El Tri that just gets away from them! Herrera sprays a wonderful pass on the weak side of Corluka, and Peralta is on to it, but just before he can properly apply the finish, he loses his footing!
BRASILIA UPDATE: The Selecao have taken the lead through Neymar against Cameroon. As things stand, Brazil and Mexico are going through, Croatia heading out.
HERRERA RATTLES THE WOODWORK! Mexico's first chance and my goodness, did they come close! The midfielder takes aim from just outside the box under pressure from Modric, catches the ball cleanly, but smacks a powerful shot off the corner of the frame of the goal!
Can Mexico finally get something going in attack? They've been in control of the ball for a good minute or so, building patiently from the back, and sparking their fans into a few Oles.
GOOD CHANCE! Herrera loses it in the middle, and Rakitic sets the counter in motion with a diagonal to Perisic. He gets free down the right, but his cross is to early for Olic to reach, and Marquez takes no chances, putting the ball out for a corner kick.
Mexico seem to have weathered most of that early storm. They still struggle to keep possession, but they are forcing Croatia into more non-threatening areas away from their goal.
Perhaps inevitably, the Mexican wave is making its way around the stands. It's usually a signal of a lull in the game, but the fans are still making an almighty racket up there.
Marquez and Modric go dome to dome in a challenge for Pletikosa's goalkick. One coconut cracks before the other though, as the Mexico man walks away, while the Croatia midfielder needs a moment to recover.
Yellow CardIvan Rakitic
Rakitic becomes the first booking of the game after drawing the referee's ire for a rather wild sliding challenge that left Vazquez in an untidy heap. Little complaints from the new Barca signing.
Impressive start from Croatia here as they are the ones dictating the tempo. Mexico have barely gotten forward and must continue to be wary of the threat from wide against their three man defence.
Another corner between Pranjic and Rakitic sees the ball sail over Lovren's head, but only as far as Perisic who, with a man on his back, can only swing the ball well over the top.
Danger here for the Mexico defence from a corner, but Pranjic can't pick out a teammate and Ochoa is not tested. He's been one of only two keepers in the entire tournament to keep a clean sheet in both group games so far. He might be busy here though with Croatia pushing for a win.
This almost guarantees that there will be tears here in Recife come the full time whistle. Betting on Cameroon to pull out a shock is little more than a fool's errand. Both these sides also made it hard for Brazil in their respective matches against the hosts - a great battle in store here!
Like I said before, if you had to rank all 32 teams based on their performances at the World Cup so far, then Cameroon would probably come out dead last. The African side were particularly shambolic against Croatia in the last round - so it's going to take at least a miracle for them to get a result against Brazil.
Here we go then! Both these nations had to sweat to get to the World Cup in the first place and it's no different here in Recife.
The anthems are sung with rousing gusto, particularly the Mexican rendition given the superior numbers of fans from the Concacaf nation in the Itaipava Arena Pernambuco. The handshakes go on, and we're just about done with the formalities.
For Mexico, Javier Hernandez AGAIN is left out of Miguel Herrera's starting XI. There was some talk that the Manchester United poacher might lead the line for El Tri this evening. However, he's still a handy option to bring off the bench should they need goals in the second half.
Only one change from Niko Kovac after their 4-0 thrashing of Cameroon. Sammir drops to the bench, which thrusts Sime Vrsaljko into the starting lineup. This will require Pranjic to vacate his left back position and move up into the midfield to accomodate Vrsaljko.
MEXICO SUBS: Corona, Talavera, Salcido, Reyes, Ponce, Fabian, Brizuela, Aquino, Pena, Jimenez, Pulido, Hernandez.
CROATIA SUBS: Zelenika, Subasic, Vida, Schildenfeld, Vukojevic, Badelj, Brozovic, Kovacic, Sammir, Eduardo, Rebic, Jelavic.
MEXICO (3-5-2): Ochoa; Aguilar, Rodríguez, Márquez; Rodriguez, Moreno, Layún, Vazquez, Herrera, Guardado; Dos Santos, Peralta.
CROATIA (4-5-1): Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Rakitic, Modric; Pranjic, Perisic, Olic; Mandzukic.
Right, I think that's enough permutations for a lifetime. Let's move on to our lineups, shall we?
Mexico will finish first by matching Brazil's result - win, draw or loss - and hoping that there is a one goal swing in their favour. It may not be enough just to win today for either of these sides - they might need to hammer in quite a few goals!
For Croatia to win the group, they need to beat Mexico and have Brazil fail to win Cameroon. The Vatreni can finish in second with a draw - but they must then hope for the Indomitable Lions to beat the Selecao - a tough ask for probably the worst side at the World Cup so far. Lose, and Croatia are out.
Group A's winner will square off against Chile, while the runners up will have the Netherlands to deal with in the round of 16. Neither potential clash looks easy in any way. However, with the Dutch pulling out three group wins from three, including a 2-0 win over Jorge Sampaoli's side mere hours ago, top spot in Group A is still very much the prize.
In the World Cup, goal difference is the first tie breaker. Next, teams level on points are ranked by goals scored. If that fails to smash a deadlock, then the head to head record comes into play. Beyond that it gets really messy really fast - but we won't need to go there.
Group A sees Brazil lead on four points, ahead of Mexico only on goal difference. Hot on their heels are Croatia with three, while Cameroon have already booked their flights back to Africa.
Winner takes all. Croatia vs Mexico in Recife. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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