Mexico (1-0-1) vs. Croatia (1-1-0), 4 p.m. (ET)
06/23/2014 8:12 AM
06/23/2014 8:12 AM
Recife, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Mexico has reached the knockout round in each of the past five World Cups, and El Tri can extend that streak to six with a win or draw against Croatia at the Arena Pernambuco on Monday in the final day of Group A play.
Both teams beat Cameroon, but Mexico's 0-0 draw against Brazil is the difference between the sides, as Croatia fell 3-1 to the hosts in the opening match of the tournament.
Much of the credit for Mexico getting a point against Brazil goes to goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who produced a number of fine stops to keep his team in the match.
"Sometimes it's our turn to catch the eye and other times it's someone else's," Ochoa said following the game with Brazil. "Of course I'd like to have less to do, but in my position you've got to be constantly alert, whether you're needed just once or loads of times. And that's what I'll keep training for."
Ochoa made a pair of big saves to deny Neymar, while he reacted well in the final minutes to keep out a point-blank header from Thiago Silva.
"He saved us today," Mexican winger Andres Guardado said of Ochoa. "Sometimes we had the feeling that, however many times they went for goal, he wasn't going to let anything get past him."
Ochoa will hope to be a bit less active on Monday, although Croatia enters the match full of confidence having handed Cameroon a 4-0 defeat last time out.
After missing top forward Mario Mandzukic against Brazil because of suspension, the Bayern Munich forward returned to the fold against the African side and netted a pair of goals in the second half.
Croatia was unlucky to lose 3-1 to Brazil in the opener as a questionable penalty decision handed the home side a 2-1 lead in the second half before Oscar scored a goal in stoppage time to cap the win.
Unlike Mexico, Croatia must win Monday's game in order to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 1998, and head coach Niko Kovac is expecting a great atmosphere.
"The match against Mexico will be like a final," Kovac told Croatian television station HTV. "We have to get some rest, because a serious opponent awaits. Mexico are strong, but so are we. The Mexico players are very patriotic, just like us, and they have a great team spirit. They play some aggressive football with a lot of pressing. They are strong going forward, but also have some weaknesses in defense, like Brazil showed us."