Brazil was supposed to breeze through Group A but Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s heroics means that there’s all to play for on Monday (4pm ET/1pm kickoff). Should Brazil succumb to the pressure and slip against Cameroon then the winner of the Croatia-Mexico game wins Group A. All Mexico needs is a draw to advance for to the Round of 16 for the sixth successive World Cup while Croatia must win to avoid elimination.
Both teams feature flashy forwards capable of continuing this World Cup’s remarkable run of magical matches. Mario Mandzukic struck twice in Croatia’s crucial win over Cameroon, while Mexico’s Oribe Peralta is living up to the promise he showed during the 2012 Olympics. If the physical Peralta is able to hold the ball up front, space could open for Giovani Dos Santos to come in behind him. Super-veteran Rafa Marquez anchors the Mexican D which must disrupt Luka Modric from hooking up with future Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic, Ivica Olic, and Mandzukic.
Croatia manager, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt doppelganger, Niko Kovac favors a 4-2-3-1 formation while Mexico’s Miguel Herrera goes with a 3-5-2.
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Danijel Pranjić, Dejan Lovren, Vedran Ćorluka, Darijo Srna; Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić; Ivica Olić, Sammir, Ivan Perišić; Mario Mandžukić
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Héctor Moreno, Rafael Márquez, Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez; Miguel Layún, Andrés Guardado, José Juan Vázquez, Héctor Herrera, Paul Aguilar; Giovani dos Santos, Oribe Peralta
The match kicks off from Recife’s Arena Pernambuco at 4pm EST/1pm PST.
According to paddypower.com, Croatia’s odds to win are 8/5, while Mexico is at 15/8, and a draw is at 23/10.