Croatia v Mexico – World Cup preview

Watch the final Group A clash live on ITV4 on Monday 23 June

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Croatia v Mexico (Group A) 8.30pm (k/o 9pm) ITV4 

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Naturally ITV have gone with Brazil v Cameroon as their main game, but really, this is the big one. Unless something silly happens in the other match, Croatia need to beat Mexico to deny their opponents a place in the knockout stages.

Like many games in this fabulously open tournament, the flanks will be where it’s at. Mexico like to throw their wing-backs forward, particularly Miguel Layun on the left – but surely they’ll tone that down against the Croatians, whose main threat is in advanced wide areas. If Brazil couldn’t cope with Ivan Perisic and Ivica Olic’s runs toward the corner flags, Cameroon certainly couldn’t. With Mario Mandzukic loitering in the centre ready to convert crosses, Mexico have to shut that avenue down.

Croatia could also conceivably argue they’ve got the best central midfield partnership in the tournament, in the shape of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and the Barcelona-bound Ivan Rakitic. Holding them at bay will need another stout performance from the Mexican spine: goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who made the defensive shut-out of Brazil look more impressive than it was, and ludicrously experienced sweeper Rafael Marquez.

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Mexico’s trump card might be something that TV pundits still aren’t emphasising enough: the conditions. At 1pm in sultry Recife, the pasty Croatians will lose some of their zip. What they won’t lack is a desire to win.