Mexico progressed to the last 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Monday night with a 3-1 win over Croatia, who bow out of the tournament with three points.
The mexican goals came in the second half through Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez before Ivan Perisic pulled one back late on. Ante Rebic was also sent off for Croatia in the dying embers of the affair.
After a lively, combative opening quarter hour in which both sides had played some lovely stuff, a superb move almost brought an opening for Mexico. Hector Herrera charged from midfield, played a neat one two with with Giovani Dos Santos and unleashed a stinging effort which beat Stipe Pletikosa before cannoning off the post.
Three minutes later Mexico had another opportunity to push in front as Herrera found Oribe Peralta but the young starlet fluffed his lines at the vital moment and the chance was gone.
On the half hour mark, Croatia had a chance of their own to take the lead. Corluka chipped a purposeful ball forward to Mario Mandzukic. He duly chested down to Ivan Perisic and the Wolfsburg winger fired a volley which whistled just over Guillermo Ochoa’s crossbar.
Twenty five minutes from time, Mexico should have been awarded a penalty. Paul Aguilar swung in the original cross to Javier Hernandez, he could not connect with it and it fell to Andres Guardado. He shot goal wards and Darijo Srna through himself in the way, it appeared to cannon off the skipper’s arm but the Uzbek referee waved away the claims to the dismay of the Mexico coach Miguel Herrera.
18 minutes from time, the penalty appeal seemed a distant memory for Mexico. A corner from the left was invitingly floated into the six yard box. Marquez charged into the six yard area late, towering above Corluka to thunder home a header which was likely to send his charges to the last 16.
Just three minutes later, it was curtains for the eastern bloc nation. A sweeping move from the back was started by Aguilar, he played the ball into Hernandez. The Manchester United man held up the ball well at the edge of the box before setting Peralta behind the Croat defence. He cut it back to Guardado and the experienced midfielder hammered it home to send Miguel Herrera into raptures.
Things began to get interesting 8 minutes from the end when Hernandez headed home a Francisco Rodriguez header, to put a seed of doubt in Brazil’s accession to top spot. A Fernandinho goal put that to bed moments later though.
Croatia grabbed a consolation with three minutes left on the clock as Mexico conceded their first goal of the tournament. Ante Rebic set Perisic away and he duly finished with a low drive under Ochoa’s legs.
The creator of the goal was involved in another incident just two minutes later. Rebic lost possession in midfield and in an attempt to reclaim the ball he went in high on fellow sub Carlos Pena and was shown a straight red by the referee. A miserable end to the tournament for Croatia.
Mexico on the other hand progress to face Group B winners Netherlands in the last 16. The only time the two have met in the FIFA World Cup previously was a two two draw in 1998, Luis Hernandez scored a stoppage time equaliser for Mexico.
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Dejan Lovren, Danijel Pranjic Nikica Jelavic 74); Sime Vrsaljko (Mateo Kovacic 58); Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic; Ivan Perisic, Ivica Olic (Ante Rebic 69); Mario Mandzukic.
Subs not used: Daniel Subasic (GK), Oliver Zelenika (GK), Gordon Schildenfeld, Domagoj Vida, Ognjen Vukojevic, Marcelo Brozovic, Milan Badelj, Sammir, Eduardo.
Booked: Rakitic (9)
Sent Off: Rebic (89)
México: Guillermo Ochoa; Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno; Paul Aguilar, Jose Vasquez, Miguel Layun; Héctor Herrera, Andres Guardado (Marco Fabian 85); Oribe Peralta (Carlos Pena 79), Giovanni Dos Santos (Javier Hernandez 62).
Subs not used: Jose Corona (GK), Alfredo Talavera (GK), Carlos Salcido, Diego Reyes, Miguel Ponce, Isaac Brizuela, Javier Aquino, Raul Jimenez, Alan Pulido.
Booked: Marquez (39), Vasquez (66).
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Extratime.com Man of the match: Hector Herrera (Mexico)