Mexico qualified for the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup with a comfortable 3-1 win against Croatia in Recife on Monday.
Both sides had impressed with eye-catching football in their respective matches so far in the competition, but a late flurry of goals ultimately booked Mexico a meeting with the Netherlands in the second round.
Few expected Miguel Herrera’s men to pose much of a problem for Brazil and Croatia in Group A following a tumultuous campaign in the CONCACAF qualifiers, but their solid defence once again provided a sound foundation.
Croatia had immense trouble creating clear-cut chances, while Mexico threatened with counter-attacks and hit the crossbar through Hector Herrera early on.
The Mexicans were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty with 25 minutes to go following an apparent handball by Darijo Srna, but they were not denied soon after as captain Rafael Marquez headed them into the lead.
Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez made sure of the triumph with two goals in seven minutes and, although desperate Croatia pulled one back through Ivan Perisic, they were well beaten in the end as Ante Rebic compounded their disappointment with a late red card.
Coach Miguel Herrera was adamant in the build-up that Mexico were not going to simply play for the draw they needed and, although Croatia controlled the early possession, the Central Americans looked typically dangerous on the break.