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Jun 30, 2014

Mexico, so close and yet so far... again

Two late goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wesley Sneijder gave Netherlands a 2-1 victory over Mexico and a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.

FORTALEZA, Brazil -- On Sunday in front of the Estadio Castelao there is a strange feeling in the air... The setting is similar, almost identical... The buzzing of the crowd, the songs, the voices are also familiar. The masks, the sombreros, the costumes, the same face paint as always... The green horizon... Early, under the sun of Fortaleza, Mexico took charge of a day that had to and deserved to be different in the history of Mexican soccer... and the difference seemed impending...

- Marshall: Three points: Dutch shock Mexico
- Bell: Mexico wilt at the end
- Carlisle: Dutch late show denies El Tri

The signs seemed to point to it... The opportunity palpable...

And in the end it was not a penalty, a dive by Arjen Robben, an error by Rafa Márquez, a mistake by the referee or a tainted FIFA, as was shouted here in the stadium's exit tunnels. Mexico's soccer fell short of what was needed to take the historic step so hoped for by its fans. It pushed its play to the limit, reached the limit, nourished hopes with a team that always exceeded its own expectations and in the end displayed shortcomings on the field that did not allow it to clinch the game as it had to. So close yet so far once again, characteristic of the bittersweet journey of the Mexican national team over the last 20 years.

Mexican soccer needs to understand once and for all that it is not about "luck," about abnormal or paranormal situations that end up coming between it and the possibility of reaching the fifth game of the World Cup. It is about shortcomings that build up throughout a poorly executed process characterized by indecision, failure to honor projects and halted plans.

It was the same old story for Mexico fans on Sunday as El Tri failed to advance past the second round for the sixth consecutive World Cup.
It was the same old story for Mexico fans on Sunday as El Tri failed to advance past the second round for the sixth consecutive World Cup.

Even in this emergent stage, Mexico had time to discover an outstanding coach like Miguel Herrera and a group of players that grew as a group and as individuals. More work must be done in order to be able to produce more and better talent and see through a plan that in four more years will give Mexico the right tools to keep a team like the Netherlands from changing the whole outlook of the game in a few short minutes.

Looking for excuses is the normal escape for Mexican soccer. Let's admit that what happened this Sunday in Fortaleza was the result of a poorly executed process.

The sun never went down on el Castelao... It shone down on hope, and continued to shine as the afternoon advanced and happiness turned to suffering, suffering to agony and agony to sudden and unexpected elimination... They left the Stadium the same way they have for the last 20 years. Grieving in mind and spirit... Searching for an explanation or someone to blame... Still in shock and full of regret...

During the solitary dusk at el Castelao, the sky, "el cielto lindo," became sad once again... The flag on the ground, suffering in the soul and the promise to return...

David Faitelson

David Faitelson is one of Mexico's most popular sports journalists, having worked for TV Azteca before joining ESPN. He is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.