Just over two weeks ago, the Netherlands dispatched reigning champion Spain 5-1 in a historic display. On Sunday, they were on the verge of going out of Brazil 2014 against a battling Mexico but stormed back with two late goals to defeat El Tri 2-1.
- Canales: Mexico's dream dies in Dutch defeat
The 32 degree Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit) heat, with 68 percent humidity, stifled the game in the first half, and it was Mexico that performed better. But Miguel Herrera's men ran out of steam as the Dutch progressed to the quarterfinals in dramatic circumstances.
1. Dutch class shines through
All the talk from Mexico ahead of the match was centered on how the defense would stop perhaps the best strike force at Brazil 2014: Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Robben looked dangerous throughout the game, should have had a penalty in first-half injury time and eventually got one in second-half stoppage time that led to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's winning goal. Robben was the difference-maker in the end, along with an exquisitely struck shot from Wesley Sneijder to equalize in the 88th minute.
Giovani dos Santos seemed to have stolen the limelight with his goal three minutes after halftime, but the individual Dutch class shone through.
2. Heartache for Ochoa and Mexico
Everything looked to be going right for Guillermo "San Memo" Ochoa. In the 54th minute, in the same stadium he performed his heroics during the group stage against Brazil, a header from close range looked destined to give Netherlands an equalizer, but it went straight at Ochoa, who turned it onto the post with a combination of his head and fists. He then stopped a Robben shot when he burst through in the 74th minute.
The two late goals ended what would have been a historic feat for Mexican football. Had El Tri made the quarterfinals, it would have been for the first time outside the country's borders.
The team -- which struggled in qualifying -- can leave Brazil with its head held high, but the examination of why Mexico can't equal South America's giants and challenge at the later stages of the World Cup will once again be opened.
3. Van Gaal wins battle of the managers
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal made an early substitution when Nigel de Jong was forced off with an injury inside the first 10 minutes, and he made a significant call when substituting Van Persie in the 76th.
It was a decision that won Netherlands the game. Replacement Huntelaar may not have Van Persie's subtlety, but he was involved in both goals for the Dutch, heading down for Sneijder to smash the ball home to level the score and calmly stroking in the winning penalty.