Dutch forward Arjen Robben was at the center of another diving
controversy after he won the injury-time penalty which Klaas-Jan
Huntelaar converted to hand Mexico their sixth successive second
round exit in the cruelest possible manner.
Giovani Dos Santos had given Mexico the lead early in the second
half in scorching conditions in Fortaleza and they appeared set to
goal through until Wesley Sneijder smashed home an equalizer two
minutes from time.
Mexico's fellow CONCACAF side Costa Rica also took a second half
lead through Bryan Ruiz and, despite having Oscar Duarte sent off
after 66 minutes, were moments from victory before Sokratis
Papasthathopoulos sent the game into extra time.
The exhausted Ticos held on for a 1-1 draw and won 5-3 on penalties,
making them the first CONCACAF quarter-finalists since United States
They now face the Dutch on Saturday in Salvador.
The weather clearly affected the Dutch match which kicked off at
1300 local time in tropical Fortaleza with the temperature at 32
Celsius and humidity at 68 percent, prompting the first official
water breaks of the tournament.
Conditions were made worse because a large part of the pitch was in
the baking sun for much of the game and it was so hot that swathes
of seats in the sun were left unoccupied.
Mexico had the best of a snail-paced first half and deservedly went
ahead after the break when Dos Santos chested the ball down 30
meters from goal before firing a low left-foot shot into the bottom
corner of the net.
The goal prompted another exuberant fist-pumping celebration from
coach Miguel Herrera, whose energetic performances on the touchline
have made him a cult figure.
Mexico were nearly home and dry when they failed to properly clear a
corner and the unmarked Sneijder blasted home the equalizer.
Then, in stoppage time, Robben, who had already had two penalty
claims waved away, dribbled the ball into the penalty area and drew
a tackle from Mexico captain Rafael Marquez that was controversially
deemed a foul.
Robben offered the ball to Huntelaar who fired home to leave the
balding 30-year-old dribbling specialist in the middle of another
debate over fair play.
"Three times he dived, and they didn't say anything," fumed Herrera.
"If the referee was fair, their second goal wouldn't exist...because
Robben would have been sent off for a second yellow card.
"But if you don't book him after the first one, then the player
knows he can get away with it."
Marquez said: "I felt I touched the ground but I didn't touch him,
maybe he touched me." He added that Robben told him afterwards "that
it wasn't a penalty, though one of the previous (tackles) was,"
[to top of second column]
Flamboyant Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said he cunningly used
the second water break for a tactical switch.
“I moved to plan B and yes, I did that in the cooling break that is
a clever way of benefiting from these breaks,” he told reporters.
Costa Rica and Greece served up an unappetizing first half in Recife
but the game came to life after Ruiz rolled a daisy-cutter into the
net from 20 meters to put the Central Americans in front in the 52nd
Like Mexico, the Ticos sat back on their lead and made life even
more difficult for themselves when Duarte was dismissed for a second
Greece huffed and puffed and finally levelled in stoppage time when
Theofanis Gekas unleashed a shot that Keylor Navas parried straight
into the path of Papasthathopoulos who gleefully rammed into an
Costa Rica looked broken but, after surviving extra time, they gave
a lesson in penalty-taking as they converted all five attempts in
the shootout while Navas saved Gekas’s fourth shot for Greece.
"The confidence for the penalties was immense," said Costa Rica’s
Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto. "We knew we deserved it for the
effort we had made. I don't know if the sending off was fair or
The round of 16 continues on Monday with two clashes between Europe
France face Nigeria in Brasilia (1600 GMT) and Germany take on
Algeria in Porto Alegre (2000 GMT) in a rematch of their 1982 World
Germany coach Joachim Loew said he knew all about the Desert Foxes,
who famously beat West Germany 2-1 32 years ago.
"We know how they train, we know they have a strong French
influence," he said. "We know that many of these players went to
France and played and trained in the youth teams. The names may not
be that familiar but the qualities certainly are."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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