And then Group A

Group A was one where nobody was guaranteed to be in or out, going into the final game, although Brazil and Mexico definitely had the bull by the horns.

But since I thought that the chance of the refs allowing Brazil to lose was zero (assuming that their abundant talent wasn't enough, which was also unlikely), I turned on the Croatia match with Mexico.

It started out as a very tough defensive match-up, with neither team finding much room in the midfield.  Croatia got the first two corner kicks, but couldn't do anything with them.

Shortly after, Mexico tried to go over the top straight off a midfield free kick.  It didn't work, but was a nice attempt.

I was somewhat amused when, soon after that, the Croats tried grabbing both shoulders of a Mexican and then kicked over top of him.  No foul.

The Croats then got the third corner kick.  It didn't work, but the strategy was interesting; they went all the way to the opposite side, then centered again from that side for a header attempt.  Again, it didn't work, but it was cool to watch.

In the fifteenth minute, the North Americans put it off the crossbar, right by the corner of the goal, but it went out.  That was their first good chance, and it came off a 20-25yd shot.

They got another chance in the nineteenth, with a long ball to a player running down the right side.  But it was foiled when he went to kick it into the middle, as his plant foot slipped and the ball bounced off of that foot and out of play.

The Mexicans got a couple of corner kicks in the 39th, but it didn't work out for them.  The first was immediately played out and the second was played upfield to start a counterattack.  Of course, that play out came from a defender at minimum distance, and he used his hand to send it out.  And if the ref had been looking, he would have seen that player grab his hand afterwards to assuage the hurt.  But the counterattack did no damage; the shot wasn't taken terribly close, and was fired over the crossbar.

A couple minutes later, there was a massive pig-pile in front of the net following a Mexican corner kick, but the Croats managed to clear just as a Mexican was called for interfering with the goaltender.

Early in the second, the Croats got away with murder, as there was a very deliberate take-down of a forward in the box, followed by blocking a cross with a handball.  Not exactly the prettiest sequence.

But Mexico finally scored in the 72nd minute.  Not a complicated play; just a centering from a corner kick, heading it into the net from close range.

It didn't take long for Mexico to increase their lead; only about three minutes.  The Croats back line gave the ball away before midfield, and Chicharito brought it down nicely.  Then he passed outside, and, going back to the middle, let the cross go to the far side for an easy tap-in.  Nicely played.

And karma came back to him, a couple minutes later, on a corner kick flicked on by another Mexican and right to him to head in for the goal.  There being only ten minutes left, that was enough for me to turn the game off, so I missed Croatia's goal just before the end.

So Brazil won the group, with Mexico also moving on.  Group B might have been a big surprise, but this is the result most would have predicted, before the tournament started.

Update: I forgot to mention one item of amusement.  I did flip across to the other game a couple of times; the first two, I flipped only a second or two before a score (the first two scores).

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