NETHERLANDS 2, MEXICO 1
WESLEY SNEIJDER CANCELS OUT GIOVANI DOS SANTOS OPENER AND LATE KLAS JAN HUNTELAAR PENALTY SEALS LATE COMEBACK WIN
Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch team braved ridiculous heat to record the eighth comeback win of the Brazil World Cup after Mexico had taken the lead early in the second half and were just two minutes from a famous victory to take them into the Quarter Finals for the first time.
Wesley Sneijder and substitute Klas Jan Huntelaar turned over Giovani Dos Santos’ opener as the Dutch equalised and then won the game deep in injury time and avoided a potentially harmful extra time.
Played in a scorching Fortaleza where temperatures reached a maximum 38.8 degrees Celsius pitch side this was not a game to be chasing a goal for either side.
The heat was such that spectators opted to temporarily abandon their sets for the shade of the concourse areas while the sun glared down directly on half of the stadium.
The official time-out breaks in each half, used for the first time at this World Cup, will have helped but FIFA must look again at the effects of the heat on the players and the spectators with respect to the forthcoming Qatar World Cup where temperatures could go even higher.
Mexico hadn’t managed to score in the first half of any of their games in the World Cup so far and they drew a blank in the first half of this game.
The Holland game plan had already been interrupted with the loss of former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong to an injury after just nine minutes.
Mexico’s movement and shooting was already troubled the Netherlands side and forced the Dutch players to run after the ball, draining their stamina quickly.
The Mexicans could also have won an early penalty after just 20 minutes when Ron Vlaar’s high boot could have hurt Hector Herrera as he went to head the ball.
The Dutch needed the first official drinks break in this World Cup after 32 minutes more than their Mexican opponents.
Refreshed, they should have won a penalty in first half injury time after first Rafael Marquez and then Hector Moreno tripped Robben but bafflingly no penalty was given.
Mexico had scored all of their World Cup goals in Brazil in the second half and they did it again shortly after the break when Giovani dos Santos struck a half volley past Jasper Cillessen.
The heat was truly on the Dutch now and they were forced onto the front foot despite the heat.
Stefan De Vrij’s 57th minute strike was blocked by Guillermo Ochoa and miraculously bounced away off the post while further chances for Arjen Robben came and went with no penalty given despite trips by Miguel Layun and Marquez in the second half and perhaps one or two dives by the Dutch frontman.
Van Gaal opted for tactical changes with a daring decision to remove captain Robin Van Persie in favour of Klas Jan Huntelaar and Holland began to go more direct.
Ochoa was the hero when he raced off his line to block Huntelaar’s shot even though the striker was offside as the Dutch opted to play it long late into the second half.
Time was ticking down to an almost inevitable end when Wesley Sneijder, suffering yet another quiet World Cup game, latched on to Klas Jan Huntelaar’s knockdown of Robben’s corner to finally blast a low shot past Ochoa and level the scores.
And when Robben finally won a penalty after being brought down by Marquez it was left to Huntelaar to provide the finishing touches to the great Dutch comeback by putting his penalty into the bottom left corner past Ochoa.