Mexico (National Football)

5 Things for Mexico to Be Positive About Following Win Against Croatia

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

5 Things for Mexico to Be Positive About Following Win Against Croatia

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Mexico's last World Cup group-stage match proved to the world that they are ready to tackle the round of 16 no matter the rival.

    Back in December, El Tri learned that they would face the host, plus Croatia and Cameroon.

    Everyone knew the task would be humongous, especially after Mexico's shaky qualifying process. But Miguel Herrera came and gave the team a new face.

    El Tri dispelled all the doubts ahead of knockout stage by defeating the Blazers forcefully.

The Team Is in Great Shape

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    Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

    According to Weather.com, it felt like 79 degrees Fahrenheit at kick-off; there was also 78 percent humidity. Croatia was clearly suffering at the end of the match.

    Mexico ran all over the pitch. The players covered a lot of ground in tough conditions and they never seemed to be tired.

    On average, the 10 starters covered 9,746 meters, with Hector Herrera running a total of 12,083 meters, per FIFA.com.

    The next match, against Netherlands, will take place in Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza. The forecast says there will be 89 percent humidity and the temperature will be about 58 degrees.

     

Javier Hernandez Is Back on Track

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    On Saturday, June 23, 2013 Javier Hernandez scored a brace against Japan during the last matchday of Group A at the Confederations Cup. Little did he know that would be his last goal in a year.

    Chicharito appeared in 10 games after that, including three matches in the 2013 Hexagonal and two 2014 World Cup clashes.

    He finally sealed the deal against Croatia, when Mexico were basically qualified to the knockout stage.

    It was the perfect timing because the next game will be tough and El Tri might not have many goal opportunities; they will have to take advantage of those they create, and who better than Hernandez to finish them.

Sixth Consecutive Knockout Stage

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    Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

    Mexico have made the round of 16 in the past six World Cups.

    In the United States in 1994, they lost to Bulgaria in penalty kicks after a one-goal draw in regular time.

    In France in 1998, El Tri were up 1-0 in the first minutes of the second half, but Germany turned around the score and won 2-1.

    In Korea-Japan in 2002, the United States stunned them 2-0, in one of Mexico's toughest World Cup defeats.

    In Germany in 2006, Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez put the ball away with a superb long-distance shot in extra time. The Albiceleste did it again in South Africa in 2010 with an overwhelming 3-1 win.

    They will seek to make the quarterfinals for the third time in history and first outside Mexico.

Mindset Is Strong

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Mexico stood into the pitch with one goal in mind: Win the game.

    They did it despite two refereeing mistakes that should had been penalty kicks in Mexico's favor.

    “wait they CAN’T use their hands? news to us” — refs in Mexico-Croatia http://t.co/mEILghQCrQ https://t.co/eMMOS6cOCt

    — SB Nation (@SBNation) June 23, 2014

    El Tri proved that trash talk has no place when you are superior on the pitch. Luka Modric said during a press conference that their knees were not shaking but Mexico’s were.

    He also said that Guillermo Ochoa had a lucky day against Brazil and that Mario Mandzukic had defeated better goalkeepers than him.

    Paco Memo's response was epic, by the way.

The Defense Is Getting Stronger

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    The biggest concern ahead of this match was the set pieces.

    Mexico worked hard throughout the week, and it paid off. Croatia couldn't take advantage of corner kicks and free-kicks.

    Francisco Rodriguez, Hector Moreno and Rafael Marquez were sharp in the center of the box, while Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar kept grinding through the flanks.

    Other players who helped, especially in corner kicks, were Andres Guardado and Oribe Peralta.

    Another important thing to note is that Ochoa also performed well but was not the central figure, like it happened against Brazil. That is good news for the team, too, because it means that Mexico doesn't depend on a specific player for success.

     

    Follow @ karlitsv

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