The Netherlands have continued their sensational run of form at the 2014 FIFA World Cup this morning, overcoming a spirited Mexico 2-1 in their Round of 16 clash at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza.
Having all but breezed their way to the Round of 16 with comfortable victories over Australia and Chile and a 5-1 thrashing of current champions Spain in topping Group B, The Netherlands arguably faced their biggest test to date in a Mexican outfit that had beaten Croatia and Cameroon and kept host nation and resounding tournament favourites Brazil to a scoreless draw on passage of the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup.
Needing to find top gear if to progress to the quarter finals, both sides came out of the blocks firing, contesting an exciting end-to-end style of play that was unlucky not to produce goals on both sides over the first 20 minutes.
Losing star defender Nigel De Jong in just the ninth minute, The Netherlands were forced to withstand a little more from the Mexicans than they were able to dish out, but were still offered good opportunity via star striking pair Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
While each launching impressive assaults within their opposition’s 18-yard box, both The Netherlands and Mexico appeared to lack a final touch and perhaps rightly found half time on a level pegging.
Widely expected to field at least once change in a midfield that started to leave gaps at the conclusion of the first half, Manager Louis van Gaal elected to stay true to his initial line-up but paid a costly price when Mexican mid Giovanni dos Santos danced through the centre of the pitch and finished off an exceptional solo effort in just the 48th minute.
Continuing to lay the pressure on a noticeably tiring Dutch line up, Mexico was unlucky not to find the net again just five minutes later, before The Netherlands began to maintain possession and fight their way back into contention.
The introduction of Memphis Depay in the 56th minute seemed to lift the Oranje; adding an extra element in attack while also allowing for a far-stronger defensive wall. Playing alongside Depay in a far-more creative role than that displayed in the Group stage, Robben almost equalized with just 20 minutes left to play; halted only by standout keeper Guillermo Ochoa who once again displayed cat-like reflexes.
Unable to find the net in any of his nation’s three matches at the 2014 World Cup prior, 2010 Silver Boot winner Wesley Sneijder opened his account at the best possible moment; finishing off a corner with just two minutes left of regular time.
Pushing deep into injury time, The Netherlands vs Mexico appeared to be the second Round of 16 match to head into extra time, until Mexican captain Marquez was fouled for a heavy touch on Robben in the box, forcing a penalty that was coolly converted by 75th minute substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, sending to the Dutch to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
Aiming to go one better than a 2010 World Cup campaign which resulted in a 1-0 loss to Spain in the final, The Netherlands will now face Costa Rica in the quarter finals; a match for which they are clear $1.44 favourites at Ladbrokes.com.au.