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 Posted by Cesar Hernandez
Jun 21, 2014

Three key players for El Tri vs. Croatia

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.

Mexico don't even need a win against Croatia. All that El Tri needs in order to qualify for the round of 16 is a draw in their last match of the group stage against Croatia.

After a monumental 0-0 tie against Brazil, Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera and his squad will be highly confident for their game on Monday. The match against Croatia will dictate Mexico's final place in group A of the World Cup. There is still a small chance that El Tri could finish in first, but the likely scenario is a battle between a second- and third-place finish.

- Marshall: History on Mexico's side
- Ramos: Herrera's Ochoa pick paying off
- Sutcliffe: Mexico's focus turns to Croatia

Although Mexico seems to have more of the momentum at the moment, Croatia shouldn't be taken lightly. The European squad is filled with an impressive roster of attackers and might possibly be as dangerous as Brazil on offense.

If Mexico wish to extend their stay in Brazil, they will require three superb performances from these key players.

Guillermo Ochoa

The 28-year-old goalkeeper had the game of his life against Brazil and has helped cover up a slightly underwhelming Mexican defensive line.

Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno and Paul Aguilar have all not played at their best this World Cup so far, which doesn't necessarily mean that Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Marquez have been foolproof, either. If they all continue to lack influence defensively, Ochoa will once again need to be near perfect in goal. As mentioned before, the Achilles' heel of Mexico is in defense, and the squad has been lucky to have Ochoa's presence in net.

Croatia are not afraid to shoot from any spot in the opposing half, and they may actually prove to be a bigger attacking threat than Brazil, especially when considering their demand for a win.

Jose Juan Vazquez

Jose Juan Vazquez will be Mexico's first line of defense in the midfield. Vazquez has surprised many with his dominant performances in the midfield against world-class competition, and it will be imperative for him to follow through with his current form on Monday.

Almost all of Croatia's attack will come from Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the pitch. If Vazquez can smother their movement forward, Mexico should have fewer problems in defense.

Conversely, Vazquez is also Mexico's foundation for their attack. The small defensive midfielder will need to maintain his excellent movement forward with the ball in order to help Mexico create attacking plays.

Oribe Peralta scored Mexico's only goal thus far at the World Cup.
Oribe Peralta scored Mexico's only goal thus far at the World Cup.

Oribe Peralta

With only one goal so far, Oribe Peralta is Mexico's top goal scorer of the World Cup.

Peralta hasn't exactly been terrible for Mexico, but critics and fans are well aware that the striker is capable of much more. He was El Tri's savior back in 2013 and has a chance to do the same up top for Mexico. Like Ochoa in goal, Peralta has the skillset to completely impact the outcome of a game for his squad -- something that El Tri fans will have their fingers crossed for during the duration of the tournament.

Croatia have the potential to score a couple of goals against Mexico, which means that Peralta will have to either help or create a couple of his own.