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 Posted by Tom Marshall
Jun 26, 2014

Mexican football has Dutch connection

ESPN FC's Andre Kfouri discusses Arjen Robben and how important he is to the Netherlands team.

Everywhere you look ahead of the Mexico-Netherlands match in the World Cup round of 16 on Sunday, there are links between the footballing histories of the nations, from the importation of coaches and styles to Mexico to the exportation of Mexican players to the European nation.

The teams have played a total of six times, with El Tri winning twice (both in the 1960s), one draw and Netherlands winning the other three matches.

The last time the teams met, Netherlands took a 2-1 win ahead of South Africa 2010, with Robin Van Persie netting twice and his current Manchester United teammate Javier Hernandez pulling one back late for Mexico.

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But by far the most important game between the countries came at France in 1998 in Saint-Etienne. During the group stage of the tournament, the European side stormed to a two-goal lead and looked to be coasting until late goals from Ricardo Pelaez -- currently Mexico's sporting director -- and Luis "El Matador" Hernandez stole an unlikely and famous point for Manuel Lapuente's El Tri to take it through to the round of 16 undefeated in group play, just like this time.

But the Dutch influence on Mexican soccer goes deeper than games between the two.

There have been periodic attempts to import the Dutch style to Mexican shores, with the first example being Leo Beenhakker coaching Club America in 1994. The former Ajax and Real Madrid manager succeeded in producing an attacking team that quickly became popular and is still remembered by the team's fans today. Beenhakker lasted only until 1995, when a dispute over playing Joaquin del Olmo got him fired.

Javier Hernandez will be looking to impress new Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal when Mexico and Netherlands meet in the round of 16.

Another Beenhakker influence in the more recent past was the Dutchman plucking one Guillermo Ochoa from America's youth team and handing him his debut as a teenager after he returned to the club between 2003-04.

America's arch-rival Chivas have turned to Netherlands more than once in search of a winning formula.

Beenhakker himself had a brief spell with the club in 1995, but it was Hans Westerhof who had the biggest impact, restructuring the youth system on his arrival in 2003 on the Ajax model, making it the most modern in Mexican football at the time.

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Westerhof also restructured Pachuca's youth setup from 2011, some of the results of which could be seen in the Clausura 2014 tournament, when a youthful Tuzos side reached the final.

Chivas most recently returned to Dutch thinking when legend Johan Cruyff became an advisor to the club in May 2012, installing John van't Schip as the head coach and changing everything from training methods to players' diets to dressing room music. The latter didn't go down well and led to Cruyff being fired by email the following December.

In came another Dutchman, Dennis te Kloese, as sporting director, which lasted only a year before he returned to his current post as director of youth teams within the Mexican federation.

Among the 11 players likely to start against Netherlands on Sunday, Carlos Salcido and Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez played for PSV Eindhoven, while centre-back Hector Moreno was signed by Louis van Gaal to AZ Alkmaar in 2007 and played under him until 2009.

Then there is the Javier Hernandez link with Robin Van Persie, his rival for the starting spot at Manchester United over the past two seasons, as well as the fact Chicharito will be aiming to impress new United coach Van Gaal on Sunday.

As for Mexico manager Miguel Herrera, there are no direct links with the Netherlands, but one of his coaching mentors, Ricardo La Volpe, regards Van Gaal's famous Ajax team of the 90s as a model to follow and poured over videos of the way the team pressed the opposition to win the ball back.