With only one match left for each team in Group A of the World Cup, all three teams with a chance to move forward now have crucial last matches. Brazil will play Cameroon, who is already eliminated with zero points, with the chance to move on to the knockout stages if they can get any points from the match. Croatia and Mexico will be a crucial matchup for both teams as they can both go through with a win and Mexico can move on with a draw.
Mexico has had two very good performances in their first two matches of this year’s World Cup. In their first match they beat Cameroon 1-0, but were unlucky to not score more with a couple of goals disallowed that were questionable calls at best. Next, they played the hosts Brazil to a thrilling 0-0 draw where both teams’ goalkeepers kept out some excellent chances. Now El Tri are in a position to move through to the knockout stages if they can even get a draw in their next match in Recife against Croatia.
Croatia had a disappointing match against Brazil in the opener of the entire World Cup, losing 3-1 with a few refereeing decision going the way of the host nation. They suffered a bad penalty when Fred flopped and the ref pointed to the spot. Not long after, the team had a goal disallowed after a questionable foul call on Ivica Olic. In the next match, they recovered very well with a thrashing of Cameroon by a score of 4-0. Their star striker Mario Mandzukic returned to the team and added a brace, showing how much he means to the European side. To move onto the knockout stages, Croatia need to beat Mexico in their final group match. There is a very unlikely scenario where they can draw against Mexico and hope Brazil loses a match to Cameroon. If Croatia were ahead of the hosts on goal differential, they would go through.
Mexico have played a very balanced attacking style game in the World Cup and it has helped them into the Group A lead on points. To beat Croatia they will need to keep their confidence going forward and not try to adapt their style of play to the Europeans, as playing their current style has worked very well for them so far. Giovani Dos Santos has played very well so far and having Chicharito as a threat with fresh legs off the bench makes Mexico’s attack very formidable.
For Croatia to go through to the knockout stages, they need to beat Mexico because they cannot count on Brazil losing to the already eliminated Cameroon. So far in this World Cup, they have looked very good on the counter attack with their wingers Ivan Perisic and Ivica Olic. They have been able to patrol the flanks and terrorize their first two opponents full backs and get good service into their strikers. Against Brazil, this was not quite as effective as it was against Cameroon because of the absence of striker Mario Mandzukic. Against the African side he was able to get on the end of that service and be a constant threat inside the 18-yard box.
On Monday, in Recife, the crucial match of Group A will be between Mexico and Croatia with both teams having hopes of making it to the knockout stage. If Mexico wins, they can top the group depending on Brazil’s performance against Cameroon, and they could also go through with a draw.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius