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Mexico

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 By Tom Marshall

History says Mexico will advance

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera says his team is thinking only about winning, and not about topping the group, as it heads to Recife for its vital game against Croatia.

GUADALAJARA -- The pleasing performances, heroics of Guillermo Ochoa and high spirits in camp mean that public opinion regarding Mexico's two games so far this World Cup is entirely positive, but lose on Monday against Croatia and that would change quickly.

Talk would turn to the shambolic qualifying performance, with Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera doing his best to forge together something resembling a team, but ultimately not having enough time to work with the players.

- Faitelson: Mexico building something special
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- Sutcliffe: Mexico's focus turns to Croatia

On Monday, the task is clear, if not simple: El Tri needs to draw or win to advance against an impressive Croatia team that in Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Sammir and Mateo Kovacic possess one of the very best midfields at Brazil 2014.

But Mexico in World Cups (and in general) is a model of consistency, despite the sways of mood from almost one day to the next in the press and among fans.

El Tri has qualified from the group stage of every World Cup it is appeared in since 1978, going out at the round of 16 phase in each edition of the tournament since 1994.

Mexico scraped through in 1994 after a memorable 1-1 draw against Italy in Washington D.C., having come from behind, with Marcelino Bernal getting the vital second-half equalizer with a shot from outside the penalty area.

In 1998, it was a tough 2-2 tie against a Netherlands side featuring Edwin van der Sar, Jaap Stam, Frank de Boer, Ronald de Boer, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars and Edgar Davids. Not a bad result at all, considering.

A win or draw will see Mexico through to the second round.
A win or draw will see Mexico through to the second round.

On to Japan and South Korea in 2002, and Mexico had perhaps its best group stage in history, going unbeaten and drawing Italy in the last game, after it had defeated Monday's opponent Croatia 1-0 in its opener.

In 2006, Mexico was fortunate after losing 2-1 to Portugal while Angola slipped to a 1-1 draw against Iran, while four years later Mexico headed into the last game against Uruguay on four points from two matches. El Tri lost 1-0 in a disappointing display, but still made it.

The bottom line is that El Tri always seems to find a way, even if Monday's match is slightly different in that Mexico will play its direct rivals.

The other scenario in which Mexico could advance is losing by a single goal and Cameroon overcoming Brazil 5-0. But no one is really expecting Brazil to slip up against a shambolic Cameroon side that ended its game against Croatia with players fighting each other.

Mexico's fate is in its own hands. The bookmakers may have El Tri as underdogs for the match, but the squad and Herrera will know that if they can produce a performance like in the first two games, it should be just enough to get Mexico into the second phase of the World Cup for the sixth consecutive tournament, something only Brazil and Germany can say they have achieved.

History says Mexico will find a way, and Monday really can't come soon enough.