Sneijder’s rocket and Huntelaar’s injury-time penalty dash Mexican hopes in hard-fought tie
A stoppage time penalty from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave the Netherlands a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mexico in the second round of the World Cup on Sunday, minutes after the Mexicans had seemed certain to reach the quarterfinals.
With two minutes to play Mexico were leading 1-0 but Wesley Sneijder pulled the Dutch level with a fierce drive, seemingly forcing the match into extra time.
Then, in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes, Mexico captain Rafael Marquez was judged to have tripped Arjen Robben in the penalty area and Huntelaar converted the spot-kick to take the Dutch through.
They will play either Greece or Costa Rica in Salvador next Saturday and will fancy their chances of making the last four.
"It was a nice moment for me but also for the team," said Huntelaar. "I had a good feeling and Arjen came to me and asked me do you want to shoot so I took the ball and shot it in the corner," he told ESPN.
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said: "We'd done really well. Then the team sits back and we start to give chances to a team that had not done anything.
"It's a World Cup where everything was against Mexico. Unfortunately, we didn't achieve what we wanted."
It was a cruel ending for Mexico, who dominated much of the match and took the lead just after the break through forward Giovani Dos Santos’s long-range effort.
He chested the ball down 30 metres from goal before firing a low left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Pushed on the backfoot, Holland tried to put pressure on their rivals but they were unable to take advantage of the set pieces. In the 57th minute, Robben whipped in a ferocious corner from the right and De Vrij guided it towards the goal, but Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa came up with a fantastic save before his defenders cleared the rebound away to safety.
Four minutes later, Sneijder came close when he was fed by Robben at the edge of the box but the midfielder's shot went wide after a deflection. Ochoa came up with another wonderful save in the 73rd minute when he staved off Robben's decent shot from an acute angle.
Ten minutes later, Ochoa was again in the thick of action when he blocked a Huntelaar shot from point-blank range. Sneijder finally brought up the much-needed equaliser for Netherlands with that powerful drive that left Ochoa standing. Robben’s tumble in stoppage time then shut the door on the Mexicans, with Huntelaar, who had come in for Van Persie, converting the penalty.
The Dutch victory follows their swashbuckling performances in the group stage as their quest for a first World Cup title goes on.
For the Mexicans, defeat meant more second-round heartache. They have now reached the last 16 at six consecutive World Cups and have lost every time.