Although the game in northern Japan started
lively enough, with Oscar Perez pushing a Josip Simunic attempt around the post for a
corner in the 6th minute and Zvonimir Soldo hooking the ball over the bar from the penalty
spot in the 14th, both sides found it hard to get into their rhythm or produce any real
The best chance of the game fell to Jared
Borgetti, in the 33rd minute, when Ramon Morales mis-hit a shot. The ball fell nicely to
the unmarked Borgetti, who could only shoot wide from six yards.
Mexico had perhaps a little more of the
possession, although Croatia's bursts forward earned them more corners -- Robert Jarni
taking the ones on the left and Robert Prosinecki on the right.
Mexico closed the half a little more lively
but even Cuauhtemoc Blanco fell on his backside when trying one of his infamous hops, five
minutes from the break.
Half-time: Croatia 0 --
Milan Rapajc came out at the start of the
second-half, for the ineffective Robert Prosinecki and drove in a low free-kick to the
left of the goal in the 54th minute.
Apart from that, Mexico started to look more dangerous with
Blanco getting into the game better, so good that Boris Zivkovic brought the influential
Mexican down in the area and earned his marching orders.
-- GOAL -- 0-1 Cuauhtemoc Blanco kept his calm to ram the ball home from the spot -- 60
The double substitution from Croatia, to
counter being a man short for the remaining thirty minutes (Suker and Boksic out for Saric
and Stanic), meant that they had no notable striker on the pitch to pull the game back.
Mexico's answer, a minute later, was to bring
on Hernandez for Borgetti.
With a quarter of an hour to go, the Mexican
fans were treated to an eight-touch passing display and showed their pleasure with an
equal amount of olés.
With an extra man on the pitch, Mexico could
afford to give Blanco a rest and bring on Francisco Palencia for the last ten
Even with a man less, Croatia needed to throw
caution to the wind a little and take a few risks. The third-placed team from France 98
looked out of their depth here and really need to watch the video to see just how
lethargic they were if they want to do better against Italy and Ecuador.