Ecuador Stuns Croatia 1-0
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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) _ Edison Mendez scored early in the second half as Ecuador upset Croatia 1-0 Thursday night, knocking the 1998 semifinalist out of the World Cup.
In winning its first game at the world soccer championship, the South American newcomers ensured Crotia could not catch Italy or Mexico in Group G.
Croatia had three good chances in the first half, but couldn’t get the goal it desperately needed. Then it made one mistake and was doomed.
Mendez drilled a right-footed shot from close range in the 48th minute. He knocked in Agustin Delgado’s header off Ulises De la Cruz’ pinpoint cross from near the left corner flag.
It was Mendez’ first and Ecuador’s second goal in the World Cup.
Mexico won the group with seven points after tying Italy 1-1 in a match played simultaneously in Oita. The Italians finished second with four points, followed by Croatia and Ecuador with three.
Milan Rapaic came close to tying it, but his free kick from 25 yards was headed wide by the defense.
Daniel Saric got into a one-on-one with Ecuador goalkeeper Jose Cevallos, but was called offside. Then backup midfielder Davor Vugrinec slammed a right-footed strike well over the crossbar in the 83rd minute.
Brilliant reflexes by veteran midfielder Alex Aguinaga got the ball off his goal line after a powerful Croatian header two minutes later as the Ecuadoreans clung to their slender lead.
Mendez had the only shot on target for Ecuador in the opening half, but his right-footed shot from 20 yards was held on the second grab by keeper Stipe Pletikosa in the 24th minute.
But Mendez found the net with Ecuador’s only shot on goal in the second half.