In the tense Group A winner-takes-all clash it was México who triumphed to set up a last 16 tie against Holland. Second half goals from Captain, Rafa Marquez, Andrés Guardado and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández gave El Tri the thoroughly deserved victory and meant Miguel Herrera’s side finished second to group winners Brazil, on goal difference.
Despite Luka Modric’s pre-match claims that Croatia were the superior side the first half was a pretty even affair but it was México who came closest to taking the lead when Hector Herrera crashed a long range effort off the crossbar.
After the break, it was on Croatia to push given that the draw saw México through but once again it was Miguel Herrera’s side that dominated.
Not long into the second half, México should have been awarded a penalty when Dario Srna clearly blocked Andres Guardado’s volley with both hands and despite strong protests on the pitch and from Miguel Herrera on the touchline, the referee remained unmoved.
However, El Tri did not have to wait too long as Captain, Rafa Marquez rose to powerfully head in a Hector Herrera corner causing huge celebrations and lifting the pressure.
With the pressure off, México began to control the game and just minutes later a neat interchange saw Oribe Peralta square the ball for the impressive Andres Guardado to rifle the ball past Stipe Pletikosa. Guardado has been back to his very best under Herrera in the midfield three and will be attracting plenty of interest this summer.
With qualification now in the bag, Chicharito managed to add a third and end his goal drought that stretches back to the Confederations Cup. Rafa Marquez flicked on a corner at the near post and Hernández showed all his six-yard predatory skills to head in the third from close range. The relief and the joy on the Manchester United striker’s face was obvious after what has been a testing time in his career.
Croatia did manage a late consolation, the first goal Mexico has conceded, through Ivan Perisic and then as frustration got the better of them, with Rebic being shown a straight red card.
México’s joy sees them set up a last 16 tie against Holland but they will be without influential defensive midfielder, Juan Vazquez, who picked up a yellow card and will be suspended. Having been able to field the same eleven for all three group games and not having a like-for-like replacement for Vazquez could provide Miguel Herrera a headache. However, El Pioji and El Tri will relish once more being the underdogs when they take on Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side.
México 3 – 1 Croatia