Mexico defeats Croatia 1-0

A penalty from Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the 61st minute gives Mexico a 1-0 victory in the opening Group G game of the World Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Niigata, Japan:

A penalty from Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the 61st minute gave Mexico a 1-0 victory today in the opening Group G game of the World Cup. The penalty also resulted in the first red card of the tournament for Croatia's Boris Zivkovic, who stuck his right leg out on the advancing Blanco, bringing the attacker down while making no contact with the ball. Referee Lu Jun had no hesitation in expelling Zivkovic and pointing to the penalty spot. Blanco returned to take the shot, smashing the ball into the top lefthand corner of the net as goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa dived the wrong way. The first half had been fairly even, though Mexico appeared to get the better of the game as the teams approached halftime. Croatia, the surprise third-place finishers from France '98 had a chance in the first five minutes when Mexico goalkeeper Oscar Perez was forced to save a header. In the 25th, Perez had to run to the right of his goal to dive on a loose ball. As the Mexicans started to find their form, the action switched to the Croatian half. In the 33rd minute, Mexico had its best chance of the half when a cross from Ramon Morales was knocked just wide of the net by Jared Borgetti. Croatia had another chance in the first minute of the second half when a cross from substitute Milan Rapaic found the head of Zvonimir Soldo. The strike was knocked over the net by Perez. After the goal the Mexicans hung on to their lead but gave little sign of scoring a second, while Croatia desperately made substitutions to try to change the match. Mexico's best chance of doubling its advantage came with five minutes to go, but Morales' shot was knocked away by Pletikosa. Croatia stepped up the pressure in injury time with a series of attacks on the Mexican goal, but were unable to get past Mexico's defense. The two sides had met twice before with Croatia winning each time. Italy and Ecuador play later Monday in Group G. Croatia meets Italy on June 8 while Mexico plays Ecuador the following day. (AP) Lineups:Croatia: 1-Stipe Pletikosa, 3-Josip Simunic, 4-Stjepan Tomas, 6-Boris Zivkovic, 8-Robert Prosinecki (5-Milan Rapaic, 45), 9-Davor Suker (c) (15-Daniel Saric, 64), 10-Niko Kovac, 11-Alen Boksic (13-Mario Stanic, 67), 14-Zvonimir Soldo, 17-Robert Jarni, 21-Robert Kovac. Mexico: 1-Oscar Perez, 4-Rafael Marquez (c), 5-Manuel Vidrio, 6-Gerardo Torrado, 7-Ramon Morales, 9-Jared Borgetti (15-Luis Hernandez, 68), 10-Cuauhtemoc Blanco (17-Francisco Palencia, 79), 11-Braulio Luna, 13-Sigifredo Mercato, 16-Salvador Carmona, 19-Gabriel Caballero. Referee: Jun Lu (China)