ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Ivan Rakitic scored on a penalty kick in the second half, lifting depleted Croatia to a 1-0 win over Mexico on Tuesday night.
The penalty was called after Mexico defender Miguel Layun, a halftime substitute, kicked Croatia’s Tin Jedvaj on the upper thigh in the 61st minute in the corner of the box. Rakitic’s penalty kick, low and to the left, just beat goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
It was the first goal given up by Mexico in 350 minutes, including games against Poland, Bosnia and Iceland.
Mexico suffered a setback in the first half when defender Nestor Araujo was taken to a hospital after sustaining a left knee injury in the 14th minute.
Before the game, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio criticized Croatia’s decision to release six of its top players: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Danijel Subasic (Monaco) and Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan).
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane had requested Modric return to the club, while the other players suffered bruises or minor injuries during Croatia’s 2-0 loss to Peru on Friday in Miami. Their absence left Croatia at far less than full strength and deprived Mexico of a tougher test in the last game before its final World Cup roster is announced.