Key Battles That Will Shape Mexico's World Cup Clash with Croatia

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2014

Key Battles That Will Shape Mexico's World Cup Clash with Croatia

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    Mexico have had two convincing games in the World Cup so far, but the real deal will be against Croatia.

    Miguel Herrera has used the same starting XI vs. Cameroon and Brazil, and he has had good results.

    A win against the Africans, which was expected, and a draw in front of the hosts, which surprised many, have put El Tri in a good position to secure a ticket to the knockout stages.

    The players have showed their commitment on the pitch and that they are eager to make it further than the round of 16.

    The following key battles will help determine whether Mexico advance.

Guillermo Ochoa vs. Mario Mandzukic

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    Guillermo Ochoa was the hero against Brazil. He has two clean sheets, an honor he only shares with Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

    Ochoa has proved that he has fantastic reflexes and good dives. He denied the hosts seven clear goal-scoring opportunities and earned Man of the Match honors, according to FIFA.com.

    He stopped Neymar, Fred, Oscar and Luiz Gustavo in style.

    Against Croatia, the man he will probably see the most is Mario Mandzukic. The forward missed the opening game with Brazil due to suspension, but vs. Cameroon he made quite an impact and scored a brace.

    It will be an epic battle, especially due to the accuracy and power of the Bayern Munich man.

Rafael Marquez vs. Mateo Kovacic

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    Mateo Kovacic is an Austrian-born footballer who is very fast and technical. Rafael Marquez needs to be alert to try to stop the 20-year-old, who currently plays for Inter Milan.

    Kovacic started the Brazil clash but stayed on the bench for the Cameroon game until the 72nd minute.

    Marquez has enough experience and leadership to hold off Croatia's attack. He has also shown that his role as a centre-back is not the only position he can fulfill.

    Mexico's captain can help the midfield when in distress. He fights every ball, and his fine touch and precision are perfect when he has to recover balls.

Jose Juan Vazquez vs. Luka Modric

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    Jose Juan Vazquez had barely played with Mexico before the World Cup, but Miguel Herrera trusted him and sent him in as a starter against Cameroon.

    El Gallito didn't disappoint. He may not be a very well-known player, but he is certainly a tough guy who can recover balls, hold off the rival's midfielders and distribute the ball easily.

    His battle with Luka Modric will be key for Mexico. Vazquez needs to step up and try to neutralize the Real Madrid footballer.

    If he manages to do so, he will give El Tri a good chance to command the game and eventually win it.

    Vazquez is very accurate in possession—he registered 92 percent pass accuracy against both Cameroon and Brazil.

Paul Aguilar vs. Ivica Olic

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    The Club America man has quite a challenge ahead. Ivica Olic scored one against Cameroon, and he did it through the left flank.

    Paul Aguilar has not been at his best in the attacking third, but he has proven to be in better shape when it comes to his defensive skills.

    Olic is a very fast winger who can run all the way to the goal line and cut into the box, which he did vs. Cameroon constantly.

    Aguilar will probably have Francisco Rodriguez's support, but in the end he is responsible for that side. Also, he needs to stay patient, because he has already received one yellow card.

Oribe Peralta vs. Stipe Pletikosa

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    This is it for Oribe Peralta, whodespite scoring against Cameroonwas completely nullified by Brazil.

    The Club America striker needs to get back to his scoring days, not only to help his team but because he needs a confidence-booster.

    Peralta is very fast and intelligent; he is not only a threat when he scores but also when he passes the ball to assist one of his teammates.

    Stipe Pletikosa was clearly vulnerable in the opening round, and Peralta will need to take advantage of it.

     

    All advanced stats appear courtesy of Squawka.com unless otherwise noted.