Mexico qualified for the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup with a comfortable 3-1 win against Croatia in Recife on Monday.
Both sides had impressed with eye-catching football in their respective matches so far in the competition, but a late flurry of goals ultimately booked Mexico a meeting with the Netherlands in the second round.
Few expected Miguel Herrera's men to pose much of a problem for Brazil and Croatia in Group A following a tumultuous campaign in the CONCACAF qualifiers, but their solid defence once again provided a sound foundation.
Croatia had immense trouble creating clear-cut chances, while Mexico threatened with counter-attacks and hit the crossbar through Hector Herrera early on.
The Mexicans were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty with 25 minutes to go following an apparent handball by Darijo Srna, but they were not denied soon after as captain Rafael Marquez headed them into the lead.
Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez made sure of the triumph with two goals in seven minutes and, although desperate Croatia pulled one back through Ivan Perisic, they were well beaten in the end as Ante Rebic compounded their disappointment with a late red card.
Coach Miguel Herrera was adamant in the build-up that Mexico were not going to simply play for the draw they needed and, although Croatia controlled the early possession, the CONCACAF side looked typically dangerous on the break.
The encounter's first chance saw Perisic blaze Ivan Rakitic's right-wing cross over in the fifth minute, but Mexico went mightily close just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark as Hector Herrera struck the crossbar with a fierce effort from 30 yards.
Mexico went close again just a few moments later as Giovani dos Santos slipped a clever pass into the danger area for Oribe Peralta, but the Club America forward lost his footing while pulling the trigger.
Croatia continued to look unconvincing in attack as an ill-tempered first half wore on.
The best opportunity Kovac's men could muster was a 31st-minute half-volley from Perisic, which comfortably cleared the bar from just outside the area.
Despite some tactical tweaking from Kovac at the break, with Luka Modric seemingly taking up a more advanced position, Croatia's lack of creative spark was not remedied.
Srna luckily escaped without conceding a penalty in the 65th minute as he appeared to block a Guardado shot with his arms, but it all went wrong for Croatia soon after.
Marquez gave Mexico a deserved lead with 72 minutes on the clock, nodding in Herrera's corner despite Stipe Pletikosa's best efforts and a second swiftly followed.
With Croatia attempting to pile on the pressure, Mexico sprang an incisive breakaway and, after receiving a squared pass from substitute Javier Hernandez, Peralta set up Guardado for an easy finish inside the area.
Mexico gave the scoreline a more resounding look in the 82nd minute as Marquez flicked on a cross and Hernandez was on hand to nod in from close range.
Perisic did get Croatia on the scoresheet with a clever finish from an acute angle, but Rebic ended any hopes of an improbable comeback with a callous challenge on Carlos Pena, earning a straight red as the European side were sent home early.
|Coach: N. Kovač|
for Š. Vrsaljko 58'
for I. Olić 69'
for D. Pranjić 74'
|Iniesta can´t see Real selling Ramos|
|Keshi sacked as Nigeria coach|
|Three finals, three defeats for Messi, Mascherano|
|Nani close to Fenerbahce move|
|Sampaoli revels in ´unbelievable joy´|
|Bravo: Copa victory a dream|
|Martino: Argentina should have won|
|Chile 0 Argentina 0 (4-1 on penalties): Hosts end trophy drought|
|Germany 0 England 1 (after extra time): England make World Cup history|
|Kenya 0 Ethiopia 0 (agg 0-2): Hosts sent out of CHAN qualifiers after second penalty miss|
|Dortmund put 17 past Olympians, Bremen hand out thrashing|
|Dinamo Zagreb confirm arrests of coach and club president|
|I didn´t know who Wimbledon guest Klopp was - Brown|
|LeBron James backs Liverpool captain Henderson for FIFA 16 cover.|
|Ramos: I am not negotiating with anyone|
|Valencia complete Mina swoop|
|United States v Japan: US seek final redemption|
|Hanousek consigns Celtic to defeat|
|Roma confirm Dzeko interest|
|Arsenal forward Podolski completes Galatasaray switch|
|Warm Dortmund welcome delights Tuchel|
|Silva vows to fight for Madrid place|
|Mancini hints at Shaqiri and Santon departures|
|Bojan raring to go after return from injury|
|Babel backs Firmino to shine at Liverpool|
|Falcao must wait to impress, warns Chelsea favourite|
|Bartomeu: Deal in place for Turan|
|Parejo re-signs with Valencia|
|MLS Review: Sounders return to winning ways|
|Klinsmann unhappy with USA performance|
|High hopes for Paraguay - Diaz|
|Gareca: More to come from Peru|
|Gerrard had European offers|
|Argentina out to spoil Chile´s party - Martino|
|Sampaoli: Chile won´t change style|
|Di Maria will come good at United - Rojo|
|Peru 2 Paraguay 0: Gareca´s men finish third at Copa|
|United States 4 Guatemala 0: Klinsmann´s men win comfortably|
|´I’d prefer no-one to know my name´ - Bassett|
|Matthews completes Sunderland move|
|Podolski set for Galatasaray medical|
|Gundogan inspires Dortmund victory|
|Inter confirm Montoya capture|
|Murillo joins Inter, as Kuzmanovic and Obi depart|
|Falcao signing not a risk, says former Chelsea star|
|Deeney agrees new Watford deal|
|Confidence and service the key to Falcao success at Chelsea|
|No bids for ´Chelsea target´ Baba, claim Augsburg|
|Derby swoop for Ince|
|Fiorentina consider legal action over Salah ´no-show´|
|Chelsea the team to beat in the Premier League, says Neville|
|Storari exits Juve for Cagliari|
|UEFA removes FFP restrictions on Man City and PSG|
|West Brom hope for new owners within the month|
|Chelsea agree loan deal for Falcao|
|Kuyt eyes trophies on Feyenoord return|
|Chile v Argentina: History beckons ahead of Copa America final|
|Wallace extends Monaco loan|
|Mihajlovic wants to instill fear factor at Milan|
|Mignolet improving at Liverpool - Grobbelaar|
|Mumbai City name Anelka player-manager|
|Olivia the parrot predicts Japan to win Women´s World Cup|
|Lusitans coach blasts Bilic´s ´lack of respect´|
|Sakho eyes more Europa League wins|
|Gareca wants Peru to keep building|
|Chile ´no chance´ if Argentina produce their best - Diaz|
|Ocampos joins Marseille permanently|
|Europa League Review: Cloud-nine Brondby ignite opening round|