Brazil's stuttering to a 0-0 stalemate against Mexico last week has opened up the Group A platform tremendously, and El Tri clash against Croatia on Monday, each with very realistic hopes of qualifying for the next round.
Both these side will be hoping that eliminated Cameroon can do them a favour against the tournament hosts, but a win for either Croatia or Mexico would guarantee them a place in the round of 16.
The pool stakes couldn't be higher in what promises to be a high-octane, all-or-nothing affair between Group A hopefuls.
Date: Monday, June 23
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV 4 (UK), ESPN (U.S.)
Key Players to Watch
Croatia: Ivan Rakitic
Strategy looks set to dictate precisely how this encounter will unfold, with a passing-oriented Croatian line-up looking to utilise Ivan Rakitic to the best of their ability against a Mexico team that's dangerous on the counter.
Rakitic's display against Cameroon led Squawka to describe the midfielder as "tidy," something he'll need to be once again in order to not surrender possession to El Tri's high line and risk seeing any profligacy go punished:
It's that kind of clean and clinical execution in the final third which led Barcelona to sign Rakitic from Sevilla last week, per the club's official website, but the dogged work of Mexico's midfield anchor could well upset that phase of the Croats' plan.
Mexico: Giovani dos Santos
Mexico's Giovani dos Santos will consider himself extremely unfortunate not to have scored at this World Cup thus far, having seen several efforts controversially ruled out against Cameroon, also coming close against Brazil on occasion.
The Villarreal forward compared closely with Barcelona golden child Neymar based on league statistics in the 2013-14 season, as shown by WhoScored.com, even beating his Brazilian counterpart in some aspects:
While Oribe Peralta may be the elite finisher within Mexico's squad right now, Dos Santos brings a tremendously valuable source of energy and represents a vital lynchpin in that quick transition from defence into attack.
Mario Mandzukic vs. Guillermo Ochoa
Having missed Croatia's 2014 World Cup opener against Brazil, Mario Mandzukic marked his return to the team with a brace in the 4-0 win over Cameroon, a prolific rate he'll strive to maintain against Mexico.
OptaJohan shows just how unique the occasion was for Bayern Munich's attacker:
But standing opposite the Croat talisman is Mexico No. 1 Guillermo Ochoa, whose morale will undoubtedly be sky-high following a miraculous display in the 0-0 draw against Brazil, which assuredly wouldn't have been possible without his goalkeeping contributions.
Miguel Herrera's defence remains one of the best in this competition thus far thanks to the free-agent stopper, per Infostrada Sports:
In this scenario, Mandzukic represents the unstoppable force and Ochoa the immovable object. A brilliant finisher is set to take on an in-form guardian of his goal in what makes for a tantalising head-to-head.
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