Recife: Mexico coach Miguel Herrera hailed the performance of evergreen captain Rafael Marquez after his team beat Croatia 3-1 on Monday to reach the World Cup last 16.
Appearing at his fourth World Cup, Man of the Match Marquez opened the scoring in the 72nd minute, powering home a header from a corner and turned provider 10 minutes later, flicking on for an unmarked Javier Hernandez to head into an empty net.
Andres Guardado had added a second three minutes after the Marquez strike as Croatia chased the victory they needed to qualify.
“Rafa, I called him and asked him to be captain and the leader of our team,” an elated Herrera said. “We needed a leader, concentrated, involved, commanding, screaming, shouting, giving my instructions on the field,” he added.
“I did not hesitate to appoint him captain. He was the only one, if nothing happened and God-willed and he was in good shape. I had no doubt that he was the No.1 one in the list of 23. “He has given leadership in the group, that’s why they call him ‘the boss’ in the group.”
The victory gave Mexico second spot in Group A on seven points with hosts Brazil topping the standings on goal difference following a 4-1 victory over Cameroon. The Mexicans will face Group B winners the Netherlands in the last 16.
Having gone into the game with doubts about his side’s ability to handle Croatia’s aerial power, Herrera turned the tables and his team scored two goals with headers from set- pieces.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Miguel Layun, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno; Paul Aguilar, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado (Marco Fabian, 84), Jose Juan Vazquez; Giovani Dos Santos (Javier Hernandez, 62), Oribe Peralta (Carlos Pena, 79)
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Dejan Lovren, Danijel Pranjic (Nikica Jelavic, 74), Sime Vrsaljko (Mateo Kovacic, 58); Ivica Olic (Ante Rebic, 69), Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic
Man of the Match: Rafael Marquez
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)