Mexico grades: El Tri advances
It was a historic display by Mexico against Croatia, which kept El Tri's brilliant World Cup campaign under Miguel Herrera alive with a 3-1 win.
Mexico turned on the style in the second half against Croatia on Monday in Recife, Brazil, dispatching the European side to set up a round of 16 clash against the Netherlands.
Rafa Marquez got the vital opener from a header in the 72nd minute, with Andres Guardado netting three minutes later and Javier Hernandez wrapping up the scoring for El Tri to end a game filled with high tension that Mexico fully deserved to win. Ivan Perisic scored a late consolation for Croatia. The European side posed only intermittent threats to Mexico, which was able to tame Croatia's fearsome midfield.
Player ratings for El Tri (out of 10):
Guillermo Ochoa (GK) - 7: The heroics weren't required, but Ochoa looked solid, handled the ball well and is radiating confidence to his defense.
Paul Aguilar (RWB) - 7: Absolutely key defensive header in the 13th minute that was almost worth a goal. Aguilar outshone Miguel Layun on the other wing all game, although his crossing was anything but refined. Another battling performance.
Francisco Rodriguez (CB) - 8: "Maza" has been reborn in this World Cup. His form has been a massive factor in Mexico not receiving a goal in the first 266 minutes of the tournament. A big, physical presence, the Cruz Azul player has been a revelation and his understanding with Aguilar and fellow center backs Hector Moreno and Rafa Marquez is improving all the time.
Rafael Marquez (CB) - 8: A Jekyll and Hyde performance from the captain. He was immense in his distribution and in his defensive work for the majority of the 90 minutes. But he ruined his night partially when he brought down Perisic on the edge of the penalty area to earn a yellow card just before halftime. In the 69th, he gave the ball away on the edge of the box and Croatia should've capitalized. Minutes later, he met a corner with the timing that has marked his career to score a vital goal for El Tri.
Hector Moreno (CB) - 8: A class act and it is no surprise some of Europe's bigger clubs are sniffing around Moreno. Strong against Croatia positionally, on the ball and in reading the opposition attacks.
- Netherlands vs. Mexico, Sunday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Miguel Layun (LWB) - 5: Needlessly gave the ball away in the 22nd for perhaps Croatia's most dangerous attack of the first half. A night to forget for the Club America player. Looks bereft of confidence and may not start against the Netherlands.
Hector Herrera (AM) - 8.5: On a different level. Outshone Real Madrid's Luka Modric and hit the angle of the goal with a shot from 25 yards (meters) in the 16th. He also set up Oribe Peralta for a chance he should've capitalized on three minutes later. A quality performance for a player who is increasingly important to Mexico.
Jose Juan Vazquez (DM) - 7.5: It's incredible to think Vazquez had never played in Mexico's first division two years ago today. "Gallito" kept Modric quiet and did the dirty work with aplomb. Vazquez did pick up a yellow card, though, and will miss the round of 16 match.
Andres Guardado (AM) - 8: Good poise, drive, skill, passing and used his experience well. There was also a finish of some quality in the 75th.
Giovani dos Santos (ST) - 6: Dropped back more than usual and was involved in some intricate build-up play. However, Dos Santos failed to really scare the Croatia defense with his running or anything else and was brought off early.
Oribe Peralta (ST) - 6: Tripped over when he was clean through on goal in the 19th, but worked extremely hard, pulling off a key defensive header just before halftime and battling the Croatia defense, which clearly didn't enjoy his presence.
Javier Hernandez (on for Dos Santos, 62nd) - 8: A live wire off the bench and netted his first goal for Mexico in exactly one year and one day. Pushed his case for a start against the Netherlands.
Carlos Pena (on for Peralta, 79) - NR: Not really on long enough to make a difference in his World Cup debut.
Marco Fabian (on for Guardado, 84) - NR: Again, didn't have enough minutes to make an impact.
Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has written about Mexican football ever since. Find him on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup.