Croatia, Mexico clash for last 16 spot

Croatia, Mexico clash for last 16 spot
Croatia's striker Mario Mandzukic

by Bertin Basson

Monday Jun 23, 2014. 11:04

Croatia and Mexico will clash for a place in the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup when they meet at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife on Monday evening. Kick-off is at 22h00 (CAT). 

A draw for Mexico would be enough to book their spot in the knockout stages, but for Croatia to advance they will have to beat the Mexicans. 

Both sides can still top the Group A, that's if already eliminated Cameroon shock hosts Brazil in their encounter at the Estadion Nacional in Brasilia. 

Croatia opened their World Cup account with a 3-1 defeat to Brazil, but kept their hopes alive of progressing in the tournament with a convincing 4-0 win over the Indomitable Lions. 

Head coach Niko Kovac insists his side have a plan to trump El Tri and shot-stopper Guillermo Ochoa, who is yet to be beaten at this year’s tournament. 

“It wouldn’t be a failure not proceeding to the round of 16, but I’m not even thinking about that," he told reporters. "We will enjoy or football tomorrow.
 
"Mexico have played very well since Miguel Herrera took charge, but we have a formula for them, although I’m not going to reveal it yet.
 
"Ochoa is a great goalkeeper, but we have good forwards who will be a menace for him. If anyone have their knees shaking, it's Mexico," Kovac explained. 

Mexico, meanwhile, beat Cameroon 1-0 in the pouring rain in their Group A opener before holding the hosts to a goalless draw. 

El Tri skipper Rafael Marquez, who is captaining Mexico at the fourth successive World Cup, is aware of the threat Croatia pose and insists the 2012 Olympic Gold Medallists won't be playing for a draw. 

“Croatia have loads of very talented players. They’ve got very quick wingers who can get to the by-line and put the ball in the box. They’ve also got a lethal striker and some of the best central midfielders around. They’re a great team, so it won’t be easy. We’ll have to give our best to get at least a point and move on to the next phase," Marquez told FIFA.com 

 “We need the win too,” explained Marquez. “We’re not going to play for the draw, that’s something we need to watch out for at all times. We won’t change our playing system. Croatia will be giving everything for the win and we will too.”

The last meeting between these two sides was back at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s goal from the penalty spot secured a 1-0 win for Mexico.



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