RECIFE, Brazil -- Mexico advanced to the knockout round for the sixth successive World Cup on Monday, securing a 3-1 win over Croatia at the Arena Pernambuco to finish second in Group A.
A win or a draw would have been enough to see Mexico into the last 16, and after a scoreless first half, Rafael Marquez found the net in the 72nd minute for El Tri.
Andres Guardado followed with a goal of his own three minutes later before substitute Javier Hernandez made it 3-0 to Mexico.
Ivan Perisic pulled a goal back for Croatia in the 87th, but it wasn't nearly enough to prevent Mexico from advancing to face the Netherlands in the round of 16 on June 29.
Both sides were able to generate chances in the offensive third in the first 45 minutes, but neither goalkeeper was overly troubled.
The best opportunity for either side came in the 15th minute as Mexico's Hector Herrera dribbled to the edge of the penalty area and lashed a shot toward goal that beat goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and crashed against the crossbar.
Croatia needed to win the game to advance, but it was Mexico that had the better of play after the interval and El Tri was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty kick when a shot from Guardado struck the arm of Croatia defender Darijo Srna, only to be waived away by referee Ravshan Irmatov.
However, the opening goal arrived 18 minutes from time when Herrera's corner kick was served to the front of goal for Marquez, who got up to turn home a header that put Mexico in a great position to advance.
Things got even better for the Mexicans three minutes later when Oribe Peralta's pass was fired home by a first-time effort from Guardado, while Croatia's Ante Rebic had a shot cleared off the goal line by Hector Moreno, keeping Mexico up 2-0.
The lead swelled to 3-0 in the 82nd minute when Marquez flicked a corner kick on for Hernandez to finish at the back post.
Perisic scored the first goal of the tournament against Mexico three minutes from time, while Croatia finished the contest with 10 men after Rebic was sent off in the closing minutes for a terrible challenge on Mexico's Carlos Pena.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun