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Tom Marshall: Tensions rise ahead of Mexico-Croatia clash

Members of the Croatian contingent were in a bullish mood ahead of the crunch match with El Tri.

Mexico manager Miguel Herrera’s news conferences are rarely dull affairs, and Sunday’s was even more action-packed than usual.

From explaining, tongue in cheek, the origin of Mexico fans’ “P—" chant to naming his side and telling Croatia’s confident duo of Luka Modric and coach Niko Kovac exactly what to expect from El Tri in the Group A decider, Herrera was firing on all cylinders.

Herrera named the same starting lineup as the one which started Mexico's first two games. The side will be charged with obtaining a draw or win against Croatia in Recife to advance to the round of 16.

Guillermo Ochoa is in goal; Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez, Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno are the center backs; Miguel Layun is the left wing back, with Paul Aguilar on the opposite flank. The midfield trio is Jose Juan Vazquez, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, with Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta again up front.

Herrera was adamant that the team he sends out will get the job done, even if Modric and Kovac earlier in the day attempted to sow seeds of doubt into the Mexican camp.

“Mexico is a great team, they’ve showed high quality football, but we are a better team and better individuals than Mexico,” said Modric in a news conference earlier Sunday.

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The Real Madrid midfielder even sought to minimize Ochoa, who comes into the match after a fine display against Brazil.

“With full respect to Ochoa, (Mario) Mandzukic has scored on better keepers than him,” added Modric.

Kovac continued in the attempt to ruffle Mexican feathers, saying that “if anyone has their knees shaking, it’s Mexico,” before going on to explain that he has a formula to defeat the CONCACAF nation.

Herrera bit back.

“We can say 20,000 things here, but you have to demonstrate them on the pitch,” he said.

The Mexico coach went on to say that El Tri will be playing the equivalent of a home game with the amount of traveling fans from North America, and sought to dismiss the idea that the pressure is only on his team.

“Pressure is on both teams, we are playing to stay in the World Cup,” stressed Herrera. “The draw takes us through and they have to come out and look to take the game to us, but we aren’t going to sit back and defend. We’ll look to attack.”

Herrera once again brushed off suggestions that the chant of “P—” that Mexico fans have sung regularly both in international and domestic games over the last 10 years is at all in bad taste, making light of the suggestion that it is a homophobic slur.

“We use the word (p—) for everything,” he said. “It comes from the Nahuatl putitzin and means (a desire) that the goalkeeper clears (the ball) poorly.”

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