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World Cup Preview: Mexico-Croatia
Croatia - Mexico | News Archive

Davor Suker: Holder of the Golden Boot
06/01/2002. BACKGROUND
Mexico and Croatia begin their Group G campaign with a match at the Niigata, Japan. The construction of Niigata Stadium was completed in 2001, so there won't be any worries about the pitch. This will be perfect to settle a battle of words that has ensued between two sides. Mexico's head honcho, Javier "El Vasco" Aguirre had predicted a victory over Croatia earlier in the year. However El Tri has not looked like a side that can defeat the Third place finishers of France '98, after barely qualifying for the Big Dance. Maybe El Vasco confidence ensues due to the mild manner approach of Croatia coach Mirko Jozic. However, El Vasco has never beaten the Balkan country since their re-emergence as a nation in 1990.

Croatian fans have spent months preparing a gift for their team, a gift that they will proudly display on Monday. A 150 sq. metre flag autographed by tens of thousands of fans that has been several months in the making will finally be unfurled in the countries game against Mexico. The red and white chequered flag representing the colours of the country has pieces that, over the past year, had been placed at hundreds of locations (restaurants, bars, etc.) in the country and now bear the signatures and messages of the ardent fans. Some famed well-wishers include President Stipe Mesic, Prime Minister Ivica Racan, and tennis superstar, Goran Ivanisevic.


LATEST TEAM NEWS
Mexico - FIFA Rank: 7
El Vasco has yet to name his starting line-up for Monday's match. Aguirre is trying to figure out if Alberto Rodríguez or Rafael García should play in the inside right half. Aguirre might use Alberto García Aspe, who is more experienced and can direct El Tri a bit better. FIFA reduced the suspension of Jesus "El Cabrito" Arellano to one match. El Cabrito was to serve a two match suspension, due to attacking Wilmer Lopez of Costa Rica, in a World Cup Qualifier on October 7th of last year. This helps Mexico very much, because Arellano is a key playmaker in El Tri's offensive attack. At the same time, Arellano has the speed to get back and help out on the defensive side of the field.

Croatia - FIFA Rank: 21
Croatia on the other hand, have been decimated by injuries. Their defensive stalwart, Igor Tudor is watching from back home and Jozic has stood helplessly and seen first Robert Kovac, and then Dario Simic, sustain injuries that could keep them out for a few games. While the Bayern defender has been able to make a speedy recovery, the Internazionale stopper is almost certain to miss out after failing to recover from a calf strain. With the defence in chaos, Jozic will be forced to turn to some of his less experienced players like Simunic, who at one time suffered from attacks of nervous breakdown, not the best disease for a sweeper to have. Other recent news suggests that controversial, but talented Aston Villa star Bosko Balaban will take a seat on the bench for the opening game.

PROBABLE LINEUPS
Mexico (4-4-2): Óscar "El Conejo" Pérez (CDSC Cruz Azul); Manuel Vidrio (Pachuca CF), Melvin Brown (CDSC Cruz Azul), Alberto Rodríguez (Pachuca CF), Rafael Márquez (AS Monaco FC); Gabriel Caballero (Pachuca CF), Alberto García Aspe (Puebla FC), Braulio Luna (CID Necaxa), Gerardo Torrado (Sevilla FC); Juan Francisco Palencia (RCD Espanyol), Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Real Valladolid)

Croatia (4-4-2): Stipe Pletikosa (Hajduk Split); Boris Zivkovic (Bayer Leverküsen), Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin), Robert Kovac (Bayern München), Robert Jarni (Panathinaikos); Zvonimir Soldo (Stuttgart), Stjepan Tomas (Vicenza), Niko Kovac (Bayern München), Robert Prosinecki (no club); Davor Suker (1860 Münich), Alen Boksic (Middlesborough)

FORM GUIDE
Mexico:
So far this year, El Tri has played 11 matches and posted 8 wins and 3 losses. Mexico has won their last 5 matches, after losing to Team USA on April 3. However, those opponents haven't been the toughest squads around. Squads like Tokyo Verdy and Bolivia won't present the same types of challenges as Croatia will and Mexico didn't look good in those victories.

Croatia:
Croatia have not conceded a goal in their last six international games, four of which have been friendly games. However, Jozic's men took on Japanese second division side Albirex a day before the World Cup kicked off and won 3-0. A point of note, all three goals came from bench players: Goran Vlaovic, Mario Stanic, and Ivica Olic. They also beat Toyama Dreams 4-0 a few days before that (Vlaovic scored as a sub in that game as well).

WHO'S HOT
Mexico:
Francisco Palencia & Cuauhtémoc Blanco
The Spanish connection hasn't played that much this year with El Tri, due to their club responsibilities in Spain. However when these players put on the Green for Mexico, they have played outstanding. The opponents in Group G will have a tough time trying contain this Dynamic Duo.

Croatia:
Stipe Pletikosa & Boris Zivkovic
The 22-yr old stopper has beaten the likes of Croat champ Vasilj to the starting spot and has played a huge role in Croatia's endless string of clean sheets (9 in a row including friendlies). Zivkovic may have let three trophies slip from his hands at Bayer, but he was one of the key members of that Toppmöller side that came so close to being crowned Champions of Europe.

WHO'S NOT
Mexico:
Jorge Campos & Luis Hernandez
How these guys get a ticket to Japan, one wonders. Both are shells of their past performances of France '98. Maybe this will be their farewell tour. El Vasco seems to like having these guys around.

Croatia:
Alen Boksic
The lanky veteran has been anything but lucky all his life. His career has been plagued by injury and hence it comes as no surprise that he was missing from both, France 98 and Euro 96 in England. At the grand old age of 32, the Middlesborough striker has made it to the big stage. But, what happens? He first picks up a knock on his ankle and then gets struck by a stomach flu. Will his luck change? Let's hope so.

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS
16 Jun 1999 - Seoul, Korea Republic
Match Status: Friendly
Mexico - Croatia 1:2

22 Oct 1992 - Zagreb, Croatia
Match Status: Friendly
Croatia - Mexico 3:0

soccerage
 

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I'm so fukin nervous I can't concentrate on anything else...I need that first game to happen already. A 2-0 Croatia win should settle my nerves...
 

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Good Luck Tomorrow

From the US forum, here's hopin' you guys beat Mexico by the 2-0 score bandied about above.

JureM has got me pulling for you guys. It is easy to NOT pull for Mexico.

Best of luck, Stay uninjured!

Oldplayer
 

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thanks man :)
 

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THANX...........................................................

REGARDS.......................................................
 
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