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Hotshot bid to beat human barricade

Croatia's World Cup shootout with Mexico for a spot in the last 16 pitches gunslinger Mario Mandzukic against Guillermo Ochoa, a goalkeeper who has shown a unique ability to keep his team alive.

Mandzukic, Croatia's principal attacking weapon, will be looking to add to the two he scored on return from suspension in the 4-0 win over Cameroon, but Mexico's maverick shot-stopper showed he could put up a one-man barricade to keep Brazil last Tuesday.

The prize on offer in tomorrow's Group A clash in Recife is a spot in the knockout stages, with Mexico, on four points, knowing a draw is enough to see them safely through.

Niko Kovac's Croatia, a point behind, will almost certainly need to win, though a draw would suffice if already-eliminated Cameroon can produce one of the biggest shocks of all time against Brazil in a match played simultaneously in Brasilia.

If Croatia are to come through, 28-year-old Bayern Munich forward Mandzukic, who was sorely missed in their opening 3-1 defeat to Brazil, must be sharp.

"It was great to have Mandzukic back, he is one of the best strikers in the world," said team-mate Ivan Perisic, who scored a superb solo goal against Cameroon.

"Playing with the likes of him, [Luka] Modric and [Ivan] Rakitic … they make all of us better players."

With two outstanding saves to deny Neymar, Ochoa proved decisive in Mexico's 0-0 draw with Brazil that ended the hosts' 10-game winning streak.

He went full length to brilliantly beat out a Neymar header in the first half and blocked a fierce shot from the forward in the second half before stopped a thumping Thiago Silva header on the line late on.

"Mexico are a quick and skilled side and Ochoa had a great game against Brazil, but if we repeat the Cameroon performance, I think we have a fair chance of coming out on top," Perisic added.

Croatia have not reached the last 16 since their third place in 1998. Mexico have made the knockout stages in the last five World Cups.

The Group A winner faces the runner-up in Group B and vice versa, with the Netherlands and Chile playing each other in their final match to decide who tops that pool.

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