Mexico’s World Cup dreams were shattered in the most brutal way possible after a late, late fightback from the Netherlands ensured it was they who advance to the quarter-finals thanks to substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s 94th minute penalty.
It was a cruel end to the tournament for the Mexicans, who led the game 1-0 on 88 minutes. But, it was a defeat that means for the sixth consecutive time, they are out of the World Cup at the last 16 stage.
Van Persie return
Robin van Persie returned to the Oranje’s starting XI after missing their Group B decider against Chile, and was joined by the in-form Arjen Robben up front. Nigel de Jong, who has been a rock in the middle of the park for the Dutch thus far, limped off after just ten minutes of the match.
In the sweltering heat of Fortaleza, Mexico took the initiative from the off and looked to test the Dutch goalkeeper at every opportunity.
Following a dominant 45 minutes in which they didn't create all that much, Giovani Dos Santos gave Mexico the lead early in the second half with a superb strike into the bottom corner from 20-yards out. Jasper Cillessen had no chance of saving it in the Holland net.
As the clock ticked down, it looked like the game was slipping away from Louis van Gaal’s side as they laboured in the sweltering conditions and failed to create any clear-cut chances.
But Van Gaal bravely substituted star man Van Persie, who was anonymous for most of the match, and brought on the forgotten man Huntelaar - it proved to be the game-changer.
With five minutes left the Schalke forward met an in-swinging corner with his head and knocked it back to the edge of the box, where Wesley Sneijder was waiting to pounce. The Galatasaray man drilled the ball into the bottom corner emphatically.
The match looked certain to be going extra-time, but with six additional minutes added on to the 90, the Netherlands sensed blood and a chance to reach the quarter-finals without an extra 30 minutes.
Robben went on one of his mazy runs into Mexico’s penalty area and their captain Rafael Marquez foolishly left a leg out for the Bayern Munich man to take full advantage of - he duly went over and won his side a 94th minute penalty.
Huntelaar, who has spent 346 minutes on the bench for the Dutch so far in this tournament, stepped up confidently and smashed home the late winner from the penalty spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Van Gaal masterstroke
Another Van Gaal masterstroke earned the Dutch an invaluable win and saved them the torture of playing another 30 minutes in the humid conditions. It was the third time in four games that the Netherlands have come back from behind to win and the second time that it has been one of Van Gaal's super-subs that got the winning goal.
The Manchester United manager certainly has the knack for winning games and to win them in 'Fergie time' won't do his reputation any harm ahead of his big move to Old Trafford after the tournament in Brazil.
Van Gaal brings a huge reputation with him to Old Trafford after David Moyes failed to live up to the expectation and hype left in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, and the continued progress of the Dutch will continue to set the pulses of Red Devils fans racing.
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