Mexico has damaged Croatia's dream of repeating its successful 1998 World Cup campaign in France, beating the Europeans, 1-0, Monday in Niigata.
Mexico dominated play in the first half, but was unable to convert its advantage into goals. Both teams had scoring chances but missed the net each time, to leave the match scoreless at the half. Neither team looked particularly impressive, as they seemed content to play a conservative style of football.
Things changed early in the second half, as Mexican keeper Oscar Perez made a strong save on a header off a free kick. The momentum swung back to Mexico when Croatia's Boris Zivkovic was red-carded for fouling Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the box. Blanco easily converted the ensuing penalty kick for his 17th international goal, giving Mexico the 1-0 lead in the 60th minute.
Playing the rest of the match with only 10 men, Croatia was unable to score the equalizer, and Mexico left the Big Swan Stadium with three points from its 1-0 victory.