Mexico coach Miguel Herrera has ended his World Cup not with a defeated whimper but in his own blustering style -- by calling out the match officials for inconsistent actions on the field of play. Yes, Herrera's emotions can sometimes get the better of him, but he had a valid point about referees needing to be consistent in booking divers.
One of Herrera's most important lessons for his players -- and to the country as a whole -- was for Mexicans to be proud of their team and not to defer to any other squad, especially not the exceedingly glamorous European sides.
Herrera helped establish Mexico's belief in their own talent when he took only Liga MX players to the crucial playoff series against New Zealand. He trusted the domestic league when other coaches probably would not have, and the Liga MX players got the job done.
Even in the end, Herrera led by example in not allowing Mexico to be intimidated. As the Mexican boss was complaining to the officials after the match, Dutch star Robin van Persie brushed El Piojo aside to shake the hand of head referee Pedro Proenca. Herrera, astounded, didn't hesitate to push the tall striker right back.
Along with the pride Herrera brought to Mexico, he will be most remembered in this World Cup for his sheer joy in the experience.
With the tournament more and more of a huge commercial enterprise with immense political implications, and with charges of corruption, human rights violations and bribery abounding at FIFA, it's easy to forget that the beautiful game is beloved by so many because of the emotions it provokes. No one let their tournament-triggered emotions show more than Herrera.
Herrera and his team won fans from all over the world.
Perhaps that was part of the reason pop star Rihanna wore a Mexico team jacket last night. She knew El Tri had been eliminated -- she tweeted congratulations to the Netherlands squad after their win -- but apparently she still wanted to display her support for Mexico.
Most importantly, though, Mexico reminded their fans, after a frustrating 2013, how talented and thrilling the squad can be.
The phrase that's often used with Mexico is, "Jugaron como nunca, y perdieron como siempre," which means, "They played like never before, and they lost like they always do."
Six times now, Mexico has been eliminated from the World Cup at the exact same point -- the first knockout game.
Herrera failed to reach his own definition of success -- the quarterfinal that he strove for -- but in reaching for that star, he took El Tri and their fans on an exciting ride.
The selfies, the jokes, the press conferences featuring his straight talk, the tweets on the player lineups, the sideline celebrations, the hugs for players and friends and defiant shoves for disrespectful opponents -- all those things characterized Herrera. He leaves the World Cup without a trophy, but if they gave one for most endearing coach of the tournament, it would be his.
Yet all the accolades hoisted upon him don't really matter. Everything he did was for Mexico: to keep his players relaxed and happy, to galvanize fans behind the team, to inspire them all to greatness. It worked too.
Yes, Mexico lost, in the same stage of the World Cup in which they always seem to fall short, but this time, they really did play like never before. That will remain Herrera's 2014 legacy.