NIIGATA, Japan (Ticker) -- Cuauhtemoc Blanco's penalty kick in the 59th minute lifted Mexico to a 1-0 victory against Croatia in Group G of the World Cup.
Mexico, which has not had much success in World Cups outside the ones hosted in 1970 and 1986, will take the three points and look to build on that towards reaching the knockout stage.
"We have a win in the first match, but that is not enough to make me satisfied," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said. "Now we must win the next matches, that's why we're here."
Blanco was by far Mexico's best player as he was involved in all aspects of the attack. The 29-year-old Blanco was tackled inside the penalty area by Croatia defender Boris Zivkovic, who became the first player to be sent off and see a red card in this World Cup. The dismissal came in the tournament's ninth game.
Blanco's spot kick was hard and precise to record his 17th goal for Mexico. Earlier in the half, he also had a dangerous header covered by goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.
Croatia, which took the bronze in its initial World Cup appearance four years ago, applied pressure after conceding the goal despite a man down, but could not provide a quality finish. Davor Suker and Zvonimir Soldo had dangerous headers in the first half, but were denied by goalkeeper Oscar Perez.
"We lost too many good chances and the red card decided the game," Suker said. "We have four days now and have to organize our team for the next match."
Robert Jarni set up Stjepan Thomas with a long throw but the finish was parried into the side net by Perez. Seconds into added time, Josip Simunic had a point-blank shot, but Perez again was there to knock it into a corner kick. Croatia had 11 corner kicks to just three by Mexico.
"Perez made a couple of good saves, but when they (Croatia) were reduced to 10 men, that mae the difference."
It was Mexico's first victory over Croatia in three meetings, with the previous two as friendlies.
"We never underestimated the Mexican team," Croatia coach Mirko Jozic said. "The distribution and control of the ball was really bad and the midfield was quite disorganized. In addition, the Mexican goalkeeper was excellent."
Croatia's next game will be a tough one against Italy on June 8. Mexico meets Ecuador a day later.