Mexico was dealt a massive upset in the FIFA World Cup Round of 16, as the Oranje made off with a last minute victory over El Tri. The Netherlands will now face the winner of the Costa Rica-Greece game in the quarter-finals on July 5, at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. The Dutch victory is bound to ruffle some feathers in light of the last minute penalty kick that was awarded to the team in stoppage time.
The game got off to a slow start and there were fears that the match would be a replay of yesterday’s Brazil-Chile game. Neither team seemed to live up to the expectations that numerous game previews had attributed to each squad. The one player that did embody expectation, however, was Mexican goalkeeper Memo Ochoa.
Once again, Ochoa made some phenomenal saves for his team. In the 58th minute, Oranje’s Stefan De Vrij got on the end of a corner kick but Ochoa was able to make a heroic save with only four yards of space between De Vrij and the goal. Again in the 75th minute, Ochoa squashed the dreams of Dutch forward Arjen Robben, who was unable to finish a ball from inside the six-yard box.
The impressive Dutch duo, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, were utterly absent in the first half of play. Mexico seemed to outpace the forwards who have been touted as some of the quickest in the 2014 World Cup. El Tri dominated play and established a rhythm during the first half that completely displaced the Netherlands who had performed so well in Group B.
At the start of the second half, Giovani dos Santos put one in the back of the net, giving Mexico the 1-0 lead over the Netherlands. The goal marked Giovani’s first international score since 2012. Following the goal, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal executed some wizardry with his lineup, and successfully changed the pace of the game in the Oranje’s favor.
Memphis Depay, who has been a game-changing substitute for the Dutch, as well as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came into the game, after which the Netherlands began to show signs of life. In the 88th minute, Wesley Sneijder scored the equalizer for the Dutch, with a fabulous strike that caught Ochoa flat.
The call that sealed Mexico’s fate in the 2014 World Cup came in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Robben worked his way into the right side of the box and was taken down as he tried to weave through three Mexican defenders. Replays show contact between Robben and Mexican captain Rafa Márquez, however there was immediate criticism of the referee’s call. Nonetheless, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted the penalty kick with ease, putting the Dutch ahead of Mexico 2-1.
The buzz around the last minute penalty kick in the Netherlands-Mexico game will be shelved alongside the other questionable calls this World Cup. Yes, there was a degree of contact, but it also appeared as though Robben helped himself to ground as well.
Commentator Roberto Martínez put it simply after the match: you never want to give the referee the opportunity to have to make that call. “You need to avoid the referee making a decision [in the 18-yard box],” Martínez added.
Regardless, Mexico played a phenomenal game but lost their flare as they began to sit deep defensively in the second half. In what might have been a tactical oversight on Mexican coach, Miguel Herrera’s end, the defensive posture in the second half allowed for Robben to execute three dangerous drives down the right side, one of which he was able to draw the foul on. In the end, the Dutch were able to deliver and defeat Mexico in a last minute penalty kick.
Read more Guardian Liberty Voice Coverage on the FIFA World Cup Round of 16
Commentary by Courtney Anderson