2014 World Cup: 5 Takeaways from Mexico vs Croatia

Mexico outclasses Croatia to advance to Round of 16

Photo Courtesy of the Official FIFA World Cup Facebook Page

Coming into their third and final Group A game at the 2014 World Cup, Mexico were in a position which all teams want to be in headed into the third and final group stage game. That position is that they controlled their own destiny in being able to qualify into the knockout round(s), as all they needed was a draw at a minimum against Croatia to advance to the next round. While it is a great position to be in, sometimes teams can come out and play looking to not lose as opposed to playing to win given that a draw would suffice to advance. Yet true to the words uttered in the post-game press conference on Sunday by Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, Mexico would come out and play to win. And win they did as three goals within a 10 minute span in the second half saw Mexico defeat Croatia 3-1 and finish second in Group A with 7 points. Mexico did a lot right in this game and these were the five main takeaways from a winning effort.

A Smart Tactical Game Plan

How do you approach a game where all you need is a draw in order to advance? Well in the case of Mexico on Tuesday against Croatia, the game plan was one which sought to take advantage of the need for Croatia to be a little bit careless in order to win the game. Despite Croatia not having the lions share of possession in the first half, Mexico had the better scoring opportunities with the clearest one being a Hector Herrera shot that hit the post. Then in the second half as Croatia needed to open up and push a bit more, Mexico knew how to hit on the counter and either score or create scoring chances. It was a smart tactical game plan by a Mexico team who showed tactical discipline during the game.

Bad Officiating Decisions Had No Mental Effect

In Mexico’s first game against Cameroon, they had two legitimate goals taken away from incorrect offside calls from the assistant referee. Instead of pouting and sulking, Mexico continued pushing forward and scored the winning goal thanks to Oribe Peralta pouncing on a saved ball to give Mexico a win. Against Croatia, Mexico in the middle of the second half saw themselves once again on the wrong end of bad referee decisions as in a play in the penalty area, referee Ravshan Irmatov did not spot or incorrectly judged Javier Hernandez not to have been pushed and then subsequently the intervening shot from shot from Andres Guardado which was clearly intentionally played with the right arm of Darijo Srna. Instead of letting this affect them, Mexico pushed forward and were eventually rewarded for their efforts with three goals.

Mexico Midfield Trio Shine Again

Coming into the World Cup, it was not even expected or assumed that the starting midfield trio would consist of Hector Herrera, Jose Juan Vasquez, and Andres Guardado. Yet through the group stage, this trio in the Mexican midfield have shined and once again against Croatia, the midfield outplayed that of Croatia. Whether it be Hector Herrera controlling things by winning possession and then spraying quality passes mixed in with some thunderous shots, a Vasquez who does everything you want and ask out of a holding midfield, and an Andres Guardado who made the left side his own and scored a sensational goal, this Mexican midfield trio once again outplayed their opposition.

Javier ‘Maza’ Rodriguez┬áSilencing Critics

One of the players who maybe questioned why Miguel Herrera was going to start against Cameroon was that of defender Javier ‘Maza’ Rodriguez. I will be the first to say that I questioned the inclusion of ‘Maza’ in the 23 man squad for the tournament. Yet in the three games played so far, ‘Maza’ Rodriguez has proven to be a fine player for Mexico has he has played well and been far from the calamity that many including myself thought he would be if he played. Kudos to him for stepping up and repaying the faith of his coach who entrusted in him to go out and perform well.

Javier Hernandez A Difference Maker

It is no secret that it has been a tough year from the player commonly referred to and called ‘Chicharito’. Javier Hernandez in the first two games in the tournament has been a substitute and done relatively well in that role as he would come in, provide energy up top and at times force the opposition to commit a few fouls which gave Mexico quality free kick opportunities. Against Croatia, ‘Chicharito’ came on in the 62nd minute for an ineffective Giovani Dos Santos and in the final 28 minutes, the work and impact he had was a resounding one. In those 28 minutes, ‘Chicharito’ played like a superstar as he looked like the ‘Chicharito’ we all have seen at his best in terms of effort and quality of play. ‘Chicharito’ engineered a quality counter attack which saw Andres Guardado score to make it 2-0 Mexico and then in the 82nd minute, he headed home Mexico’s third goal of the game. It was a performance which clearly showed he merits starting against the Netherlands in the Round of 16.

Lucas Carreras is a contributing Mexican National Team and Liga MX writer for Stoppage Time Soccer. You can follow Lucas on Twitter by following him @maldini3fan.

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