Okay, so a come from behind victory? Check. Late drama? Check. A Louis van Gaal game changing substitution? Check. A Guillermo Ochoa wonder save? Check and check. It’s just standard fare for this World Cup.
For a large portion of this game Mexico was the better side and were only a few minutes away from qualifying for the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time on foreign soil. Alas for Miguel Herrera and his team it wasn’t to be as the Dutch managed to dig deep and find two extremely late goals to turn the match on its head.
It was a tough game as both sides played in extremely difficult conditions that saw a cooling break.
The Dutch march on but will be mightily relieved after being second best for much of the game. For El Tri an historic achievement was cruelly snatched away from their grasp.
Here are my 5 observations from the Mexico-Netherlands game:
1. Heat dictated the tempo and tactics
With the temperature and humidity high at Fortaleza this game was always going to be a slower, more considered affair compared with the rip-roaring feast that was Brazil versus Chile.
It was El Tri who adapted better to the conditions initially fashioning a number of chances whilst the Dutch struggled with the heat and humidity.
It was not surprising that both sides played with a deeper defensive line. The onus was on Holland and Mexico to break each other down rather than force a mistake and hit on the counter.
Mexico was more comfortable in the conditions creating a number of good chances. Miguel Layún whipped in a delicious cross early on but unfortunately for him none of his teammates were on hand to capitalize. Héctor Herrera saw a low shot roll agonizingly wide whilst Carlos Salcido stung the palms of a nervy Jasper Cillessen.
Mexico could have arguably had a penalty in the 20th minute as Herrera challenged for the ball in the area with his head whilst contending with a pair of raised Dutch boots. If that challenge had happened anywhere else on the pitch it’s likely the referee would have blown for a free kick.
The Mexicans kept the pressure going at the start of the second half and made the Dutch pay.
2. De Jong injury rocked the Dutch early on
Nigel De Jong had to go off inside the opening 10 minutes and his absence was keenly felt. Not only was his midfield steel missed in the central areas but Holland also lost Daley Blind’s delivery from the flanks. It was a double blow for the Dutch as they were hit both defensively and offensively.
Whilst Blind’s passing is generally more adventurous than De Jong’s he is nowhere near as physical. That physicality was missed as Giovanni Dos Santos held off Blind to give Mexico a deserved lead in the 48th minute with a thumping strike.
3. Ochoa stands tall again
Spare a thought for Guillermo Ochoa. He was the better of the two keepers in this match, far better in fact but yet he ends up on the losing side despite putting in another big performance.