By FRANCO PANIZO
RECIFE, Brazil — Mexico’s World Cup hopes were in the balance for much of its match against Croatia, but a second-half surge led by captain Rafa Marquez saw El Tri finish group play with an impressive win and a Round of 16 berth.
Mexico scored three goals inside of the last 18 minutes to break a scoreless deadlock and pick up a 3-1 win over Croatia at Arena Pernambuco on Monday night. Marquez led the way for the Mexicans in the chippy affair, soaring high to head home the opener in the 72nd minute and assisting on a Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez strike 10 minutes later.
The Croatians, who were eliminated with the defeat, allowed their frustrations to get the best of them. They finished with 10 men after substitute Ante Rebic was sent off with a straight red card for a late, studs-up challenge.
“There was a lot emotion because it wasn’t an easy game,” said Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. “It was a game of a lot of pressure and tension. I think the joy we felt was felt in Mexico as well. When the goals came and it was a relief because they were obligated to win and we should lots of personality in being able to come out on top.”
The result saw Mexico finish in second place of Group A behind Brazil with seven points. El Tri will now meet Group B winner the Netherlands in the first round of the knockout phase in Fortaleza on Sunday.
Marquez opened the scoring in the 72nd minute, rising over Croatia centerback Vedran Corluka to meet a corner kick from the left and nod it home. The veteran also got on the end of another corner 10 minutes later, flicking the ball towards the back post where an open Hernandez had to just push the ball home with his head.
“The first 70 or so minutes, we were in the game,” said Croatia midfielder Luka Modric. “We needed one goal and after Mexico scored from set piece, that was a big setback for us. I think they were better team. They were better team and they deserve to go through.”
While Marquez shone for his late heroics, it was Andres Guardado who scored the winner in the 75th minute. Mexico hit on a quick counterattack against a Croatia side that threw numbers forward, and Guardado finished off the play with a hard finish that stung past goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.
Croatia found a late consolation goal through Ivan Perisic, but even that 87th-minute strike was overshadowed by Rebic’s red card. Rebic made a late and high challenge on Carlos Pena, and referee Ravshan Irmatov did not hesitate to send the Croatian for an early shower.
Irmatov was involved in another play in the 64th minute, when he decided to wave off Mexico’s appeals for a handball in the penalty area. Croatia captain Darijo Srna used his outstretched arms to block a Guardado shot, but Irmatove signaled only for a corner kick.
“Unfortunately, once again a play that was not in our control happened but once again it ended up not affecting us,” said Ochoa, referencing two wrongly-disallowed goals in Mexico’s win over Cameroon. “Hopefully, if it happens again it goes our way, but we need to keep the mindset that we need to score goals and beat our opponents.”
For the first 72 minutes of the game played in front of a pro-Mexico crowd that made Arena Pernambuco feel like Estadio Azteca, both sides enjoyed good spells of possession but were lacking in the final third.
Hector Herrera came close to scoring for Mexico early when he hit an absolute rocket after some nifty passing through the center of the field in the 16th minute, but he was denied by the crossbar.
It would take Mexico much of the rest of the game to have another quality chance on goal, but Marquez made no mistake on his header in the 72nd minute and it inspired El Tri’s late scoring outburst to send them into the Round of 16 with a 2-0-1 record.
“Tomorrow we’ll start thinking about them,” said Hernandez of playing the Netherlands. “Now, we’re still enjoying this victory that we qualified and tomorrow is going to be the next day and we’re going to turn the page and start thinking about Holland.”
Kudos to Mexico & Costa Rica for getting to the next round.
Its good to see the Concacaf teams do well. I believe
the US will get at least a draw in the match against Germany.
Mexico ALWAYS makes the round of 16
It is a shame they are in CONCACAF, like the US, because they are not allowed to be thought of as a good team.
There should be a trophy for getting out of the group stage
Did any of you guys hear Hernandez’s post game comments? He talked about how, “everyone is always talking about CONCACAF being easy, but look at CR, USA and us.” It was a great comment and it also showed that there is actually some comradery in the region. The teams are actually rooting for each other to do well. Now we just need some CONCACAF teams to get past the round of 16.
The mutual Concacaf love is going up because CR, the US and Mexico are facing such nasty groups and over-performing. Can’t help but root for your neighbors when they are putting on Lord of the Rings worthy performances.
Mexico looks good. I love their coaches reactions.
Niko Kovac looks a lot like the bad guy from Casino Royale.
Ugh tired of Mexico always being in the group of easy.
I think the will actually win the Wc because fate hates me and they have been lucky in tournaments.
Brazil and Argentina aren’t thereselves, the euros will knock each other out (what’s left) uruguay will foul themselves out and Chile and Costa Rica don’t have the depth.
Oh now their group was easy. Before this tournament began everyone on here, including SBI, was talking about how Mexico were dead in the water. Croatia was gonna destroy them, Cameroon was gonna walk all over them, and Brazil was gonna embarrass them was all I kept on reading here. But now they’re through and the group was too easy.
Six straight Round of 16 appearances.
If that’s luck then the blinders are firmly in place.
The missing seventh was when they were not allowed to participate.
Awww stop, give credit where it is due. Mexico well earned their place to advance. They tied Brazil in Brazil and controlled the match with a tough Croatian team.
Props to Mexico. They went for it, and they absolutely deserve to be moving on.
Scary to think that they could’ve won the group had they bagged a couple more goals in.
Those bad calls by the referees look even worse now. Including a clear pk today.
Bosnia lost the game against Nigeria explicitly on refs bad calls, yet I never seen your uproar about it. A clear pk? There have been more clear pks not called than that unintentional handball in the box.
Is strange, isn’t it after they struggled through so much of qualifying. Congrats to them and how ’bout Concacaf, huh? Oh, BTW, El Tri: Da Nada.
It’s only strange if you put so much weight on Qualifiers and friendlies, as many here do, and don’t look at the overall bigger picture.
Mexico was the best team in CONCACAF until the spring of 2013.
Once we beat Germany last year, the players became much more convinced in what JK was selling and ran off with the Gold Cup (even if it was a B level tournament) and the rest of the Qualifiers.
A quick look at the previous HEX winners and their performance at the WC would have made anyone think twice about translating HEX performances to the World Cup.
That’s obviously not how this works, we as fans go game by game.
+1 this is one thing that drives me nuts about some US fans. The idea that Team A beat Team B, hence Team B sucks and Team A will be amazing in perpetuity is still very much a part of the thought process to some US fans, though it has gotten better in recent years. I used to get a chuckle when USMNT supporters would be seriously perplexed as to why Mexico did better in tournaments than the US, believing that head to head records were an absolute measuring stick. They’re not.
Unless you are a disguised Mexican fan here, why would you even care for Mexico to win or succeed in any way. In my opinion, they overachieved yesterday as Croatia needed to win and they luckily got on the scoreboard first on a corner kick. Everybody knows that a goal from a corner kick is nearly luck. If not, check the percentage of goals scored from corner kicks.
So when Brooks scores off a corner it’s talent and set piece strategy. When Marquez does it it’s down to luck. You clearly know your football.
Why all the Mexican fans on this site all of the sudden? Could it have something to do with Goal.com?
It was fun watching them implode in qualifying, it’s fun holding san zusi over them, it’s been fun watching them sieze their second chance, their coach is a cartoon character.
What’s not to love about mexico, honestly?
that’s exactly what it is.
The thing is, a lot of our fellow US fans around these parts are heavily emotionally invested in Mexico’s failure and so much was said after they barely got to the WC, thanks to us, that now the prospect of them doing better than us at the WC is frightening.
Like Miguel Herrera said, let the teams do the talking on the field.
After the performance we put forth against Portugal, I’m confident we can get a result against Germany. This team thrives on challenges and this is no different.
What Mexico does or does not do going forward is irrelevant to me, I won’t waste my emotional energy detracting from their performances. My emotions will only be “wasted” on the USMNT.
Just waiting for him to get a red card. Surpised he isn’t just jogging out there.
Great job El Tri. Your reward: Holland….
Don’t be surprise when they beat Holland
Um, not going to happen. Mexico always gets out of their group and then… well you know the rest.
I hate mexico, but im glad to see concacaf doing well.
Between the US, Mexico and Costa Rica there is nothing funny about CONCACAF soccer anymore.
Don’t you think it’s a little early to be putting the U.S in the same cats gory as Mexico and Costa Rica?
why is that?
C.R and Mexico are through, we aren’t, C.R and Mexico have played all their games to win.
We are not through and we have yet to play a game to win.
Agree it’s too soon to put the US in that group, but disagree that the US hasn’t played to win. They have. In the game against,Ghana, while they were pretty bad, the US was protecting a lead, not going for the draw. And after yesterday’s game, I’m not sure how anyone would think the US wasn’t playing to win.
I and a few friends believe, from the start, the U.S was playing for a tie against Portugal
Playing for a tie? Are you delusional?
I hate Mexico, and hate the fact we got them in the WC and the fact that they advanced to the second round. And, will hate it even more if they advance any further in this tournament. I am a true USMNT fan and true USMNT fans know Mexico is enemy number one. Why, because we are enemy number one to them. They will never respect you no matter how gentlemanly you are towards them. In fact, they see your support of them in any way as a sign of weakness.
Germany 3 – US 0
Ghana 2 – Portugal 0
lol, not happening.
Germany 0 – US 0
Ghana 2 – Portugal 1
They can see it however they want, their coach is probably the best thing to happen to this tournament outside of one dutch diving header. Vamos.
Paul Terry, I think you clicked on the wrong site. You must have been looking for http://www.breitbart.com.