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Jun 20, 2014

Mexico's focus turns to Croatia

SANTOS, Brazil -- We are back in Santos, at the Mexican national team's base camp, and it still hasn't stopped raining. This Thursday, Mexico head coach Miguel "Piojo" Herrera got back to soccer.

During the 15 minutes the media were allowed to be present by FIFA rules, Herrera had nothing to hide and even let the Mexican fans stay.

I still see a great group, a great atmosphere. They also realize that even though they have four points, they have to give it all they've got against Croatia.

- Report: Herrera defends gay slur chant
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As far as I know, Herrera is not considering making any changes to the lineup because it has worked for him for two games, and the idea is to use the same one against Croatia. There are still a few days left before the game, but this is what they tell me; as of this Thursday, Herrera has been planning to put the same 11 on the field.

Diego Ramirez, one of Herrera's assistants, went to see Croatia face Cameroon; he liked the outside midfielders used by Croatia head coach Niko Kovac, but at the same time, I heard that this game against the Africans was the easiest the Croatians have had in a long time.

They know that Monday's game will be difficult, but it was virtually a given that Mexico will play Croatia to qualify for the second round, and El Tri will qualify not just with a victory, but also with a draw.

An important piece of information, for those who like to wear the same colors as the Mexican team for each game: Croatia is considered the home team this Monday in Recife, and Mexico will have to use the green jersey, black shorts and red socks -- strange, given the circumstances -- and Croatia will use its traditional uniform, which legend has it that they copied from the Tecos of the UAG in their heyday, but that's FIFA for you.

Regarding everything that was said about an investigation to penalize Mexico for the shout from the Mexican fans every time the rival goalie clears the ball, Femexfut doesn't plan to take any official action. They wouldn't say it in so many words, but they prefer to pay a $10,000 fine and continue receiving that great support on the playing field.

Either a win or a draw on Monday versus Croatia will send Mexico through to the second round.
Either a win or a draw on Monday versus Croatia will send Mexico through to the second round.

FIFA has to conduct the investigation, but with all due respect, I think the Mexican federation does well to support the fans who pay for their tickets. What's more, it's something that will be very difficult to change, because I'm sure the noise from the Mexicans in the Arena Pernambuco will be louder and more intense simply because they got wind of a possible fine.

Regarding rumors and possibilities for Mexican players, I think Guillermo Ochoa will be given a lot of options. Before the World Cup, I heard that they wanted to streamline his naturalization process in France so he does not have to play another six months in Ligue 1, because of the high taxes that professional athletes pay in France. Which team did I hear wanted Ochoa before the World Cup? Milan from Italy -- but I'm sure now there are many more offers. I applaud the great performance by Ochoa, because to be honest, I am one of those reporters who really put their foot in their mouths because I thought first Oswaldo Sanchez and then Jesus Corona were better options.

With his performance on Tuesday against Brazil, Ochoa left me speechless. My respect to Ochoa for the great game he played in Fortaleza!