World Cup Soccer – Mexico vs Croatia showdown!
By Ian Palmer
It might be quite a long shot, but there’s an outside chance both Mexico and Croatia could advance to the second round of the 2014 World Cup even though they face each other in their final Group A contests. Mexico has four points and a +1 goal difference after beating Cameroon 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with host nation Brazil. Croatia has racked up three points with a 3-1 loss to the Brazilians and a 4-0 whitewashing of Cameroon.
Brazil also has four points and a +2 ranking while Cameroon has no points and a -5/. But this could all change when those two sides also meet on Monday, June 23 in a crucial match. If the unthinkable should happen and Cameroon beats Brazil, then a draw between Croatia and Mexico would put both of those countries through. Mexico would have five points to win the group while Croatia and Brazil would have four each, but Croatia would advance on a superior goal differential. A draw guarantees Croatia’s goal difference would remain at +2 while a Brazilian loss means their goal difference has to drop to at least +1.
Of course, nobody is going to let Cameroon decide their fate, so Mexico and Croatia will both be going for all three points even though one will be enough to guarantee the Mexicans a top-two group finish. This decisive contest will take place at the Arena Pernambuco in the city of Recife with the kickoff set for 4pm ET. It has the potential to be an exhilarating game since one goal could mean the difference between advancing and elimination.
While Mexico is known to be a good offensive team with players such as Giovani dos Santos in the squad, they’ve been relying on their defense so far in the tournament. They haven’t allowed a goal against yet, but most of the credit for this statistic should go to goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s pulled off some might fine saves in the first two games. But to win this game they’re going to have to score at least once. And there lies the problem. With Mexico needing just a draw the team could hang back too much and manager Miguel Hererra may sacrifice offense for defense, which often backfires as a tactic.
For Croatia, a draw only does them any good if Brazil loses, so they’ll be looking for a win here. They need to control Mexico’s midfielders Jose Vazquez, Hector Herrera, and Andres Guardado as well as Dos Santos and his fellow forward Oribe Peralta to be successful though. The Croatians will be depending on creative midfielder Luka Modric to be their engine and set up his teammates and also need a good performance from Ivan Rakitic. Up front look for Ivica Olic and Ivan Perisic to lead the attack along with striker Mario Mandzukic.
Both Mexico and Croatia control their own fate here, but it’s likely that just one of them will advance unless Brazil falls apart against Cameroon.