A late surge from Netherlands saw them run out 2-1 winners over Mexico, with goals from Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar canceling out Giovani dos Santos’ opener. They’ll be paying attention to the next game, when they’ll find out whether Costa Rica or Greece will be their next opponents.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s World Cup run has ended, once again, at the Round of 16. That makes six tournaments in a row that El Tri have made it this far, only to fail to advance.
The first half between Netherlands and Holland could well have been described as, well, a snooze. An afternoon nap played out in the oppressive heat of Fortaleza. The players took the first officially sanctioned water break of the World Cup, but that was about all that happened.
Oh, besides each side getting denied what appeared to be legitimate appeals for penalties. The first time, it was Mexico being denied. Netherlands defender Ron Vlaar stuck his boot in Héctor Herrera’s face, but no call came. Mexico got their revenge in added time, when Héctor Moreno and Rafa Márquez went in together to relieve Arjen Robben of the ball. Again, no call.
The teams seemed revived by their halftime break, and sure enough, the deadlock was quickly broken.
Paul Aguilar sent a long ball up the pitch, which a Dutch defender did his best to head away. Instead it fell into the path of Giovani dos Santos, who had plenty of space to control, chesting it down to his feet. He then managed to muscle his way through two oranje shirts before sending his half-volley whizzing past a diving Jasper Cillessen.
That goal seemed to galvanize the Dutch (maybe they finally remembered that a win was necessary in this instance) and suddenly the game got interesting. In the 57th minute, Stefan de Vrij got his foot on the end of a corner from Robben. But once again, Memo Ochoa played the hero, denying de Vrij from point-blank range. Moments later, Ochoa was there to tip a shot from Wesley Sneijder over the bar, ensuring his side remained in front.
With Mexico content to sit back, it was up to Netherlands to continue expending all their energy rushing toward Ochoa’s goal. In the 74th minute, he made the difference once more, pushing aside a Robben shot after the winger flew up the pitch. On the resulting corner, Vlaar managed to put his header well high.
But Ochoa is falliable, and Netherlands finally proved it in the 88th minute. Robben’s corner curved to the back post, where substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was waiting. His headed pass fell into the path of an onrushing Sneijder, whose low shot finally evaded the Mexico ‘keeper.
The match then finished in a fashion that might well have been written before kickoff. Robben, attempting to pull back from the touchline, was tripped up by Márquez. This time the referee wasted no time brandishing the yellow, nor in pointing to the spot. It was Huntelaar who stepped up, sending his shot left, while Ochoa dove right – and in the process, securing Netherlands’ advancement to the quarterfinals.
Netherlands: Cillessen; De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind; Kuyt, Verhaegh (Depay 56), De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder; Van Persie (Huntelaar 75), Robben
Mexico: Ochoa; Rodriguez, Salcido, Marquez, Aguilar, Layun; Herrera, Moreno (Reyes 45), Guardado, Dos Santos (Aquino 61); Peralta (Hernandez 75)
Goals: dos Santos 48′