|Croatia||0 - 1||Mexico|
|(HT: 0 - 0)|
Niigata Stadium Big Swan
Jun Lu (CHN)
|1||3 Jun 2002||Robert Prosinecki||Player Out||Second Half||1||H|
|2||3 Jun 2002||Milan Rapaic||Substitute In||Second Half||1||H|
|3||3 Jun 2002||Boris Zivkovic||Red Card||Second Half||14||H|
|4||3 Jun 2002||Cuauhtemoc Blanco||Goal (penalty)||Second Half||15||A|
|5||3 Jun 2002||Davor Suker||Player Out||Second Half||19||H|
|6||3 Jun 2002||Daniel Saric||Substitute In||Second Half||19||H|
|7||3 Jun 2002||Alen Boksic||Player Out||Second Half||22||H|
|8||3 Jun 2002||Mario Stanic||Substitute In||Second Half||22||H|
|9||3 Jun 2002||Jared Borgetti||Player Out||Second Half||23||A|
|10||3 Jun 2002||Luis Hernandez||Substitute In||Second Half||23||A|
|11||3 Jun 2002||Cuauhtemoc Blanco||Player Out||Second Half||34||A|
|12||3 Jun 2002||Francisco Palencia||Substitute In||Second Half||34||A|
|Mexico had a Cuauhtemoc Blanco penalty to thank for a 1-0 win over Croatia in their opening World Cup Group G encounter. After a scoreless first half the match burst into life 13 minutes after the restart. Croatian defender Boris Zivkovic made a rash challenge on 29-year-old Blanco in the penalty area and duly became the first player at this year's finals to be sent off. Blanco, who plays in Spain with Real Valladolid, dusted himself down and blasted the spot-kick past Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa for his 17th international goal. Croatian coach Mirko Jozic reacted almost immediately by withdrawing disappointing veteran striker Davor Suker and replacing him with Daniel Saric. Suker, formerly with Real Madrid and now with Germany's 1860 Munich, had been partnering Middlesbrough's Alen Boksic, making his World Cup debut at 32 after missing the tournament in France following knee surgery. But the impatient Jozic swiftly hauled Boksic off as well and sent on Mario Stanic. That strategy didn't work either - despite the team forcing 11 corners - and Croatia must now get a result against Italy next Saturday at Ibaraki if they are to prolong their Asian sojourn beyond the opening round. With the Italians the group favourites that match will make or break Croatia's tournament.
Croatia stunned the footballing world in 1998 when they placed third on their World Cup debut, largely down to Suker finishing tournament top scorer with six goals. But this time he was a shadow of his former self - and so were his teammates, most of whom were survivors of that memorable campaign. Robert Jarni's long throw set up Stjepan Thomas with two minutes left but Mexican keeper Oscar Perez got his hands to a blistering effort to deflect the effort into the side netting. Mexico, who have twice made the quarter-finals, struggled to make this year's event and only claimed their place at the last minute. Coach Javier Aguirre, who said beforehand that the Croatians' weak spot was their defence, had put his faith in the experienced Blanco with Jared Borgetti alongside him rather than Francisco Palencia, while the 'Aztecas' handed the captaincy to Monaco defender Rafael Marquez.
Aguirre said: "It's the players that won this game, they trained hard for 45 days and they deserved their victory."
Asked what he would be working on before Mexico face Ecuador on Sunday, Aguirre said: "Croatia worried us at the set pieces and that is what we've got to work at.
"The Ecuadoreans play their football in Mexico and they know Mexican football but Mexicans also know about Ecuadorean football."
Borgetti missed a sitter from six yards after 33 minutes after Ramon Morales' mishit effort came to him.
And the home-based Santos Laguna striker soon paid for the howler as 1998 star Luis Hernandez came on in his place with 21 minutes left, his straggling long blond locks kept in check by a headband. Blanco took his leave of the proceedings with 11 minutes left to take the plaudits of hundreds of sombrero-clad Mexican fans and give Palencia a run out. Mexico kept veteran midfielder Alberto Garcia Aspe, looking to make an impression at his third World Cup finals, on the bench despite a century of caps. He is clearly being kept as an ace in the pack for Mexico's match against Italy in Oita on June 13.
(courtesy of dailysoccer)
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Page created by Christakis Ioannou on 3 June 2002 20:16:18.