Mexico are moving on, and they’re doing so in style.
After struggling to score throughout the World Cup, El Tri broke out for three goals in a 10-minute span in the second half to top Croatia 3-1 at Arena Pernambuco in Recife on Monday and book a spot in the knockout round with a second-place finish in Group A.
Mexico, who beat Cameroon and earned a scoreless draw with Group A winner Brazil in their first two group-stage matches, move on to play Group B winner Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Sunday.
THE OLD MAN AND THE ‘C’: With Mexico struggling to catch any breaks, it was 35-year-old captain Rafael Marquez who came through in the clutch. Marquez, the former New York Red Bulls defender, opened the floodgates for Mexico in the 72nd minute when he rose above everyone to head home a Hector Herrera corner for his third career World Cup goal.
SEÑOR CAPITAN. pic.twitter.com/qcb4cpfC7g— ESPN (@espn) June 23, 2014
CONCACAF CELEBRATION : Mexico continued to pile on the goals from there and celebrated them all in style. After Andres Guardado scored his first World Cup goal in the 75th minute, Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera enjoyed the moment with goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa as El Tri became the second CONCACAF team to advance to the knockout round (following Costa Rica). Can the US continue the trend?
Herrera slowmo is magnificent. https://t.co/IX0IfsmSkp— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) June 23, 2014
CHICHARITO’S EXCLAMATION MARK : Just for good measure, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez added the third goal for Mexico, scoring on a header off a flick from Marquez. One of Mexico’s most well-known players, Hernandez has been coming off the bench during this World Cup and did so again for Herrera on Monday – this time to very good results.
SHUTOUT STREAK ENDS: Just when it looked like Mexico would escape the group stage without giving up a goal, Croatia’s Ivan Perisic scored in the 87th minute after a nice backheel pass from Ivan Rakitic. For the game, Ochoa only finished with one save but defender Hector Moreno had a clearance right at the backline late in the contest to temporarily preserve the shutout.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Although Mexico were the less desperate side, they were the ones who very nearly broke through a couple of times early in Monday’s game. In the 16th minute, after a nifty give-and-go with Oribe Peralta, Herrera hit a great shot from distance that smashed off where the post and crossbar intersects. And just three minutes later, Herrera played a terrific through ball to Peralta, who lost his footing as he tried to take what should have been a clear shot on net.
NO PENALTY FOR YOU: Mexico was again the more dangerous side early in the second half but did not get any favors from the ref. In the 64th minute, a penalty was not called on Croatia’s Darijo Srna, even though replays showed Guardado’s shot clearly hit off his hand in the box.
Maybe not the Hand of God, but definitely the hand of some minor lake deity or something.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 23, 2014
MAN OF THE MATCH: Marquez, Mexico. Not only did the captain anchor the backline to another stellar performance, he keyed the attack with a goal and an assist.