Five keys to beating the Netherlands
Mexico is only one game away from breaking its infamous streak; In every World Cup since 1994, El Tri has been knocked out at the round of 16 stage.
Now that Mexico has proved to once again be a formidable and solid squad, the team will focus its sights on making it into the quarterfinals. El Tri has reached that stage twice -- as the host in 1970 and 1986 -- but has never advanced further.
With the parity seen so far in this tournament, Mexico must take full advantage of this opportunity. Yet, before fans can begin dreaming of a quarterfinal entry, a daunting roadblock -- the Netherlands -- must be cleared on Sunday.
The Dutch have been impressive with their counterattacks and are likely to continue relying on world-class players such as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Here are five keys for a Mexico win.
1. Guillermo Ochoa
The Dutch have averaged a little over 13 shots per game during the group stage and will likely test the Mexican goalkeeper throughout the match.
While Mexico allowed just one goal in their its group matches, most of the credit should be given to Ochoa. There are still a few worries defensively and the Netherlands should have little trouble exposing the weaknesses El Tri has in the back line.
This will mean that Ochoa has to have another superb game for Mexico. If he can, they have a fighting chance.
2. Carlos Salcido stepping up in defensive midfield
It appears that Salcido will replace Jose Juan Vazquez in the middle. Although Salcido isn't exactly my ideal player in that spot, he will provide a decent presence defensively.
That being said, it won't be a walk in the park for the veteran on Sunday. He will be the first line of defense against counterattacks and, despite having seldom played with the squad recently, will need to have an immediate impact on the field.
3. Shut down Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben
Although the Dutch have a wealth of talent, most of their attacking force has come from these two players, and Mexico can potentially sneak in a shocking win if the defense can find a way to stifle the movement and influence of Robben and Van Persie.
This means it is imperative that Rafael Marquez, Francisco Rodriguez, and Hector Moreno all have perfect games, especially Rodriguez and Moreno, who will probably be set to mark either player.
4. Influence of Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado
If Salcido is the first line of defense, Herrera and Guardado are the first line of attack. Fortunately, neither player needs to change his game plan. Both have done quite well in their position, but this test will be much more difficult. Hopefully they will attack with the same vigor and confidence they have shown so far.
Considering that Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar have taken a step back in their performances going forward, there is now a bigger emphasis on these Mexico attacking midfielders to do well.
5. Strikers scoring
It's simple enough: Mexico continues to have a lack of goals from strikers. Of the four scored so far in Brazil (and the past 10 overall), only two have been from front men.
With the potential for Netherlands to flood the scoreline, El Tri will look to its forwards to find form. Whether it is Giovani dos Santos, Oribe Peralta or Javier Hernandez, Mexico's strikers need to finish their chances more efficiently.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.