Netherlands vs Mexico match report World Cup 2014: Oranje complete late comeback after Arjen Robben wins a controversial penalty deep into injury-time

Netherlands 2 Mexico 1

Estadio Castelao

This was one of the great victories of Dutch football and one of the World Cup’s great comebacks. The Netherlands overcame the suffocating heat of Fortaleza and beat perhaps the tournament’s outstanding keeper twice in the last moments of this contest to reach the quarter-finals.

FOLLOW OUR WORLD CUP LIVE BLOG HERE

The game featured the save of the tournament and it featured one of the goals of the tournament.

Only when they fell behind to Giovanni dos Santos’s spectacular drive did the Netherlands muster any resistance. It culminated in a shot from Wesley Sneijder as the ball fell to him a few feet outside the area. It was struck beautifully, powerfully and straight and Guillermo Ochoa, who earlier had somehow pushed a point-blank header from Stefan de Vrij on to his own post, stood motionless as the ball smashed into the net.

You might have expected the Netherlands, who had dominated the second half much as Mexico had dominated the first, to have regrouped and waited for extra-time. There was to be no extra-time. Arjen Robben, who might have had a penalty before the interval and had seen Ochoa save brilliantly as he bore down upon him after it, launched another run at speed. Rafael Marquez carelessly left a leg outstretched and Robben went down.

 

The Netherlands do not have a great record when it comes to penalties, having lost a World Cup and European Championship semi-final on spot-kicks and Robin van Persie, the man Louis van Gaal would have expected to take it, had already been substituted.

It fell to Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Andrea Pirlo used to mock Silvio Berlusconi’s obsession with bringing Huntelaar to Milan, arguing he was simply not good enough to withstand the pressures of performing at San Siro. They could be no greater pressure now and Pirlo himself could not have taken the penalty better. For Ochoa there was just the man of the match award, presumably voted for before Holland’s comeback. For the Dutch, the road to the semi-finals appears open.

As Mexican supporters gathered in Fortaleza, they carried an air of pessimism along with their luggage. Mexico had only ever reached a World Cup quarter-final when hosting the event and they would be playing the team that had scored more goals in this tournament than anyone else. Meanwhile, they sighed, Costa Rica would be playing Greece.

Nevertheless, looked at objectively, there were several reasons for Mexico to be confident. They had played well ever since arriving in Brazil and they had played in Fortaleza earlier in the tournament, putting together a superb rearguard action that kept Brazil at bay.

But more importantly, there was the heat, which was a demonstration of Andrea Pirlo’s statement that “there are two World Cups, one in the north and one in the south”. This, metaphorically, was the most northern game of the tournament.

Read more: Herrera furious after Robben 'dive' costs Mexico
Netherlands 2 Mexico 1 match report

“The players showed they have the belief to fight through to the end,” he said. “Let me tell you that the Dutch media thought we would never survive the first round and so how we are suddenly favourites to qualify for the semis is something I have difficulty imagining. But with the team spirit that brought us this victory I think we will be very difficult to beat.”

Pirlo made that statement in the wake of Italy’s 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica in Recife and Fortaleza lies 400 miles nearer the Equator. The skies above the Castelao were bright, unforgiving blue and during the game there were vast swathes of empty seats – all exposed to the sun.

Video: Netherlands vs Mexico match report

The Netherlands may have gone into the game with a 100 per cent record but they were also carrying injuries that meant Dirk Kuyt would have to operate as a makeshift wing-back.

The one-time Liverpool forward would find the environment very different to the sand dunes at Waalwijk on Holland’s North Sea coast where he used to train. The pitch-side temperature here was 38.8 degrees.

Before 10 minutes were up, Van Gaal had lost Nigel de Jong with an injury and reshuffled once more, bringing on Bruno Martins Indi, who had suffered concussion against Australia and moving Daley Blind up into position as a holding midfielder, a role he plays for Ajax.

Players take on water during their cooling break Players take on water during their cooling break From the very start until Dos Santos scored, the Dutch found themselves pushed back and it was not the flank patrolled by Kuyt that Mexico exploited but the right wing, where Paul Verhaegh found himself exposed relentlessly by Miguel Ayun. Soon the shots began being aimed at Jasper Cillessen’s goal. One from Hector Herrera was wide by inches, another from Dos Santos was saved by Cillessen’s knee.

Then, as Herrera flicked the ball over his marker, the Porto midfielder was caught in a sandwich between Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij. There seemed no obvious reason why it should not have been a penalty but the referee, Pedro Proenca, awarded a corner.

The Netherlands, who produced nothing else of note in the first half, should also have had a penalty. Arjen Robben had looked very wound up before kick-off, running off and jumping up and down between the two national anthems.

These were not conditions for a man whose game is based on pure pace but the one time before the interval Robben did slip his marker he was fouled twice in the area. His reputation as a diver may have cost Robben the decision but the Netherlands were fortunate to go into the interval level, although they were not to stay lucky for very long.

Three minutes after the restart Dos Santos pulled away from Blind and drove home from 25 yards. It had been coming and to make it through the Dutch would now have more than the elements to overcome. But overcome them they did.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star