Croatia edges Mexico 1-0 on second-half penalty
Arlington (Texas), March 29: Midfielder Ivan Rakitic gave Croatia a 1-0 victory over Mexico in a pre-World Cup friendly by converting a penalty try at the hour mark.
Croatia earned Tuesday night’s victory at a packed AT&T Stadium, located outside Dallas, even though they were missing key players Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic and competing against a Mexican squad that was virtually at full strength, reports Efe.
Despite the absence of players who had returned to their European clubs over the weekend, Croatia held up well and clamped down on the Mexican attackers.
The Mexican players seemed shaken when one of their key players, defender Nestor Araujo, sustained a serious knee injury in the 14th minute and had to be taken to the hospital.
El Tri’s midfielders and forwards failed to connect, while Croatia penetrated Mexico’s defence on two occasions and nearly scored in the 18th minute on a shot that Ante Rebic botched.
Mexico produced its highest level early in the second half, with Carlos Vela getting off a left-footed shot in the 51st minute that sailed over the crossbar.
But just when Mexico appeared to have the momentum on its side, Miguel Layun fouled Tin Jedvaj along the sideline in the 62nd minute to set up Rakitic’s game-changing penalty.
Mexico had one last opportunity in the 90th minute, but Javier Hernandez was unable to get his foot on a cross by Hirving Lozano.
The victory was Croatia’s fourth in four friendlies against Mexico, although the Latin American squad has won the teams’ two meetings in the World Cup: in 2002 and 2014.
Mexico’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia will continue with three more friendlies — versus Wales on May 28 in California; Scotland on June 2 in Mexico City; and Denmark on June 9 in a Danish city to be determined.
Croatia will continue to prepare for Russia by playing a friendly against Brazil on June 3 in England and another one five days later versus Senegal in Croatia.
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