The FourFourTwo Preview: Croatia vs Mexico
Almost certainly a battle for second place.
For Croatia, it’s quite simple: win and they go through to face either Chile or Holland. For Mexico, it’s case of stick or twist? A draw would be enough to send them through, almost certainly as runners-up to Brazil.
Assuming they don’t have a preference about which team they face in the last 16, expect the Aztecs to look to frustrate Croatia as they did Brazil, although they’ll be hoping keeper Guillermo Ochoa won’t have to produce similar heroics.
When they do attack, expect them to do it quickly, with wing-backs Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar joining in where possible. With both of Croatia’s deep-lying midfielders, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, both playmakers rather than destroyers, Mexico could also look to draw both of them forward and exploit the space. Croatia shouldn’t fall for it; one goal would be enough, patience is key.
An intriguing game of cat and mouse awaits.
What the local media say
The Croatian Times is again pinning its hopes on Mario Mandzukic for the Mexico game. The Bayern Munich striker, who missed the match against Brazil through suspension, returned to score twice against Cameroon. He brings “more optimism to the team”, it says.
Key battle: Mario Mandzukic vs Rafael Marquez
Croatia’s very own Super Mario was quiet for long periods against Cameroon, but proved his worth with two second-half strikes from close range (see graphic). Up against him will be Marquez, who is not only imperious at the back for Mexico, dominating in the air and on the ground, but also organises his team-mates and steps into midfield to make up the extra man. Crucial to their 3-5-2 formation.
Facts and figures
- Mexico could progress to the last 16 having scored only 1 goal.
- Croatia have never won their final group game at a World Cup (D1 L2).
- Mexico haven’t won their final group game at a World Cup since 1986.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Mexico to edge through. 1-1.