(Photo credit: Mahanga)
03:00 BST, Wednesday 28th March, AT&T Stadium (Dallas, TX, USA)
Mexico take on Croatia in Dallas, Texas and will be looking to carry on their good run of form, having won three out of their last five games. Most recently they won 3-0 against Iceland in California. Croatia will be looking for a win to steady the ship after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Peru.
The World Cup is coming fast and both of these sides will be hopeful of making it out their respective groups, with Mexico battling Germany, South Korea and Sweden and Croatia facing Iceland, Argentina and Nigeria.
So these friendlies, this in particular, are designed to mimic the styles of games that will be played in Russia, looking to make the preparations ideal for the teams involved. Or perhaps giving those who lose a vicious reality check about what their summer has in offer.
Last Time Out
Mexico 3-0 Iceland (International Friendly)
Marco Fabian opened the scoring in the first half, curling in a free-kick from the edge of the box in the 37th minute, which separated the two sides in what was otherwise a tense first half. Iceland would’ve been disappointed that goalkeeper Runar Runarsson didn’t do more to keep the ball out.
Miguel Layun then doubled the lead 20 minutes into the second half with a smart finish, driving the ball low into the far corner across the face of goal.
Layun then rounded off the game with a second goal in the 91st minute. A floated cross caught Runarsson unawares and drifted embarrassingly over his head to round off the game.
The scoreline isn’t particularly representative of the performance and is extremely flattering for Mexico.
Peru 2-0 Croatia (International Friendly)
Peru took the lead in the 12th minute when Watford forward Andre Carrillo’s deflected strike wrong-footed Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic.
This was a brief highlight it what was otherwise a bleak first half of football from two sides that didn’t really look in the mood to be preparing for the World Cup.
Peru then all but sealed the win in the 48th minute with a wonderful passing move that frankly embarrassed the Croatian side as they were unable to come within two yards of ever receiving the ball.
It was a toothless and ultimately naïve performance from a strong, experienced Croatia who really should be performing at a much higher level.
There shouldn’t be too many changes to the Mexico side who were victorious last week. Perhaps possibly rotating their keepers and giving a run out to Javier Hernandez.
Even in defeat, Croatia still played a strong side. A few possible changes could see Mateo Kovacic and Ante Rebic come in to try and prove their worth.
Key Battle: Andres Guardado (Mexico) vs Luka Modric (Croatia)
Two midfielders that know each other very well, both of them plying their trade in La Liga for Real Betis and Real Madrid respectively.
If Guardado is able to thwart the attacking prowess the Modric can offer, it’ll make life significantly easier for Mexico.
However, if Modric gets away from Guardado and is given the freedom to roam, we could see a much different Croatia side to the one that lost dismally to Peru.
Modric has the ability to roam forward and big out the attackers with key passes, so he is easily capable of changing the game on a whim.
Changing of the guard?
Despite keeping a clean sheet against Iceland, it is very possible that Mexico rotate their goalkeeper and give Guillermo Ochoa a chance between the sticks.
It’ll be a big risk, but that’s exactly what these games are for giving those players who may be out of a favour a shot.
He’s still a solid keeper, even if he has fallen out of favour. But if given the nod, he is more than capable of reclaiming the spot and taking that number one shirt when June finally rolls around the final squads are announced.
A point to prove
Mateo Kovacic most certainly has a point to prove for Croatia if he wants to claim a starting spot ahead of the World Cup.
Even though he made little real impact when coming on against Peru. Considering the strength of the Croatian midfield, a huge performance is necessary.
And what better time than in a pre-World Cup friendly? It may be too little, too late come May and he may have fallen even more out of favour.
Given the chance to play against Mexico could be the confidence boost he needs and propel him into a starting player.
Recalling the old guard
There isn’t a necessity for Javier Hernandez to player against Croatia. Mexico looked okay without him against Iceland, scoring three goals without a massive struggle.
But everyone knows that Chicharito can create something out of nothing and adds a great option going forward.
Considering how much stronger Croatia are than Iceland, an experienced, cool head up front could easily be a game changer in a tight game.
Plus, the style that Hernandez has become famous for is notoriously hard to defend and could be the difference against an insecure Croatian defence.
Prediction: Mexico 1-1 Croatia
There’s potential for goals in this game but with both teams packing the midfield it seems unlikely that a goal-fest will occur.
It’ll more than likely be a closer game, with neither team wanting to over commit in a game such as this.