Sunday 29 June 2014
Holland vs Mexico
Another game. Another controversial moment. Another team feeling hard done by.
Mexico made all the running in the first 45 minutes. The Dutch seemed to be badly affected by the heat and showed little of the energy that they had in the opening game against the Spanish. In contrast, Mexico seemed that much sharper and first to most of the challenges. Just after the break, Mexico would have the lead with Giovanni dos Santos powering a left footed shot into the bottom corner of the net. The Mexican striker had incorrectly been denied two goals earlier in the tournament, but he would not be denied on this occasion.
Dutch manager Louis van Gaal chopped and changed his formation several times during the game, and this appeared to have the desired effect as the Oranje poured forward in search of an equaliser. The indefatigable Dirk Kuyt proved his worth during this game as he moved from left wing-back to right back and ended up playing as a centre forward. The Dutch player has always had a reputation as one of the most hard-working players in the game and this time was no different as he was crucial to the Dutch victory. He won the corner in the 88th minute that led to Wesley Sneijder smacking an unstoppable thunderbolt into the net with Mexico’s keeper Ochoa a mere spectator.
The controversy was in stoppage time. Arjen Robben had been searching for a penalty all game long. His two previous attempts were waved away by the referee, but deep into injury time he ran at the Mexican defence once again. He could have gone down from the challenge by Diego Reyes, but suprisingly stayed on his feet, got to the byline and then completed a forward two and one half somersault in a pike position. Penalty! Or was it?
My view is that there was contact. Marquez made contact with Robben and therefore it is a penalty. Robben made the most of the contact with an Oscar award-winning performance, but that does not mean it wasn’t a penalty. Up stepped Huntelaar to bury the spot kick and send the Dutch into ecstasy.
On a penalty-related note, I often wonder at the coverage that certain players get for similar offences – Robben is a serial cheat (in that he dives and rolls around dramatically whilst doing so) and in that respect he is very similar to Luis Suarez who is partial to going down at the slightest touch (when he’s not biting people), but it seems to me that Suarez (and South Americans in general) gets villified a lot more for his actions. The English commentators are also fond of bandying about the fact that “South Americans are well versed in the dark arts” as can be seen here.
There were many viewers in the aftermath who said it was a “shame” and that Mexico “deserved” to go through. Rubbish. If Mexico had been more clinical with their chances they would have gone through. They have nobody to blame but themselves.
To rub salt into the wounds, Dutch airline KLM managed to endear themselves to the entire Mexican population as they sent through this tweet after the final whistle. Good luck with your Central American business guys!
Costa Rica vs Greece
The first half was summarised nicely by Men In Blazers.
First Half highlight reel: The Kick-Off. End. #CRC #GRE
The second half was somewhat better, with Bryan Ruiz scoring a well placed goal that seemed to almost trickle into the net in slow motion. At last a goal in the 52nd minute which meant that Greece now had to chase the game. Ruiz’s goal seemed to be the total opposite of Sneijder’s goal in the earlier game – as slow as the Dutchman’s was a rocket. The Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis seemed to be stuck in quicksand as he watched the ball roll into the net. However, with 20 minutes left to play Costa Rica were down to 10 men with a second yellow for Duarte – the Greeks looked to attack whilst the Central Americans looked to hold out for victory, which seemed to be theirs until a stoppage time equaliser scored by Papastathopoulos (someone with a longer surname than mine!) to send the game into extra time.
I’ll be honest – I couldn’t stay up to watch another 30 minutes of football and then possibly penalties. From what I gathered, the Greeks wasted quite a few good chances in extra time and then were punished in the shootout. Costa Rica buried all five spot kicks and the Greeks exited the World Cup.