The free scoring Netherlands, finalists at the 2010 World Cup would look to outscore the exciting Mexican side and book a ticket for the quarter finals. The hot conditions in Fortaleza would prove a tough test for the two sides as they battle for supremacy.
The game kicked off with Miguel Layun taking an audacious shot in the 3rd minute, that went over the crossbar. Sneijder got the ball on the left and floats it towards Van Persie, but the ball went out of play. Herrera does well to evade the challenges and release Layun on the 6th minute but his shot went wide.
Nigel De Jong is substituted on the 9th minute due to injury and Martins Indi comes on in his place. Blind moves into the defensive midfield while Indi slots into the centre of defence. Herrera is looking lively and combining well with Peralta but the Dutch does well to close down. Mexico is dominating play and Layun finds space on the 14th minute to flash his shot across goal, but Dos Santos fails to connect.
Herrera gets a fantastic chance on the 17th minute after good work from Dos Santos and Peralta but his shot goes wide. Herrera escapes harm from a Vlaar high foot on the 21st minute, as the Mexicans continue to dominate. Salcido’s shot on the 24th minute is saved unconvincingly by Cillessen.
On the 28th minute, Van Parsie brings down a lofted ball in the area but his right-footed effort went wide. The Dutch are looking frustrated as Sneijder is kept away from the ball and Van Persie and Robben are not seeing much of the action as a result. The referee calls for a cooling break due to the heat and humidity.
Fine work by Mexico to release Dos Santos, whose shot at goal from a difficult angle was denied by Cillessen. Van Persie stole away on the counter, but was crowded out by the Mexican defence. An error by Mexico on the 47th minute allowed Van Persie to set up Robben but the retreating Marquez and Moreno intercepted. Shouts for a penalty was waved away by the referee as Moreno is carried off for treatment. First half ends Netherlands 0: Mexico 0.
The second half kicked off with Diego Reyes replacing Hector Moreno for Mexico. Mexico scored on the 48th minute with Dos Santos fighting off the attentions of Blind to fire his shot from distance, beating Cillessen. Netherlands would have to be more offensive to hope to get back into this game. Sneijder’s free kick on the 52nd minute was stopped by the Mexican wall. Robben’s corner kick was headed out and Blind’s rebound went wide.
Peralta got off a shot from distance but Cillessen saves. Verhaegh was pulled off for Depay as Van Gaal sought to change the game. Depay moved to the left while Kuyt was shifted to the right. De Vrij makes contact with Robben’s corner but Ochoa pulls off an incredible reflex save. Robben again does well to release Sneijder but his shot was deflected wide.
Dos Santos is replaced for Aquino as the Dutch eventually take their corner kick. Arjen Robben was beginning to find space on the right and succeeds to lob the ball into the box but Sneijder could not take advantage. Another corner by Robben was pulled back for Blind but his shot went wide. Aquino releases Peralta on the 66th minute but he was flagged off side.
Aguilar receives a caution for a foul on Depay and Sneijder’s free kick was cleared. The energetic Dirk Kuyt pulls in a cross from the right but Salcido clears for a corner. On the 74th minute, Robben found space to drive into the box but Ochoa saves again from close range. On the 75th minute Javier Hernandez came on for Peralta as Huntelaar came on for the clearly tired Van Persie. A second cooling break is called in the searing heat of Fortaleza.
The game resumed with Mexico recharged and looking set to stop the Dutch second half dominance. Huntelaar’s flick on from a Robben corner on the 84th minute was saved by Ochoa but that didn’t matter as the flag had gone up. The Dutch pressure eventually pays off on the 88th minute with Huntelaar heading out Robben’s corner for the ineffective Sneijder to fire home the equaliser.
In injury time, Robben drove into the box and was brought down by Marquez, earning his side a vital penalty. Huntelaar stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, to complete the comeback. The debate would continue for a while whether the penalty was deserved or not but Robben should have been closed down before he could waltz into the box.
The Mexicans’ brave efforts were a bit too late to salvage the situation as the Dutch side held on to win 2:1. What a comeback. Van Gaal’s inspired introduction of Huntelaar paid off as he caused the Mexicans all sorts of problems and played a part in the two Dutch goals. The “Hunter’s” predatory instincts paying dividends in securing a controversial win for Netherlands and leaving the Mexicans distraught.