Croatia vs Mexico World Cup 2014 match preview: Luka Modric and Co will have to find a way past Guillermo Ochoa to qualify

Mexicans one of just two teams yet to concede in the tournament

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The Independent Football

In order to reach the second round of the World Cup for the first time since 1998, Croatia are going to have to do something not even Brazil could manage.

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They’re going to have to beat one of the unexpected stars of the tournament so far, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. He marshals one of only two defences, along with Nigeria’s, not to have conceded a single goal in this tournament.

Despite that, there was a surprising bullishness about Luka Modric as he began to talk about the influential return of the previously suspended Mario Mandzukic to the team. The Bayern Munich forward hit two against Cameroon to convert that win into a full 4-0 rout, and Modric expects him to only build on that today - and thereby demolish Ochoa’s record.

“All to respect to Ochoa, but [Mandzukic] has scored against even better goalkeepers.”

That assertive attitude could be essential because Croatia have no choice but to seize the occasion. A point behind both Mexico and Brazil, they need to win to go through.

Modric painted it as a positive.

“It’s a good thing that we have to play to win. This is the only option. It makes it easier in a way.”

Mexico’s backline still represents a difficult challenge. Yet, if their defensive stats and the very circumstances of the game make it seem like the Central American side will cautiously play for a draw in a contest that may well develop into a siege, veteran centre-half Rafael Marquez was quick to banish such thoughts.

Luka Modric was bullish when asked about Croatia's chances against the goalkeeper

Their ambitions go beyond holding on for second. Having almost beaten Brazil in their 0-0 draw, Mexico can still beat the hosts to top spot.

“We need the win too,” explained Marquez. “We’re not going to play for the draw. That’s something we need to watch out for at all times. We won’t change our playing system. Croatia will be giving everything for the win and we will too.”

If that is the case, it will continue the more dominant trend of this tournament: hugely open games. Croatia must finally open up Mexico.