Netherlands elated with Mexico comeback
Louis van Gaal and his Netherlands players were left stunned, emotional and utterly elated following their remarkable late comeback to beat Mexico 2-1 and progress into the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
After Giovani dos Santos’ opener early in the second-half, it became a nerve-wracking affair for the Oranje, but late substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar nodded down to Wesley Sneijder who slammed home from inside the box, before the striker tucked away a penalty to complete the turnaround.
Huntelaar, who was overlooked in each of the group stage games before being called upon by Van Gaal, took advantage of his chance and who said he felt the exhilaration deep into his bones.
“This is what you dream of when you come on,” he told NOS. “You dream of this as a little kid and when it happens, it is fantastic. Robben took the ball [for the penalty] and asked “do you want to take it?” I said “yeah”, but remembered I missed the last one a bit later.
“I feel the sensation in all my bones. You just can’t explain how this feels.”
Robben, who went down under the challenge of Rafael Marquez to win the penalty, had earlier penalty claims denied in the game and admitted that one of them was a dive, for which he apologised.
“I must apologise, the one was a pen, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn’t be doing that,” the Bayern Munich star said.
“Usually I’m comfortable with taking a penalty, but this time I was tackled. I felt comfortable that Huntelaar would capitalise. It was his moment, he deserved this. Ten minutes before time, we were out, but I am so proud of this team, we keep on going, keep on fighting,
“I felt very strong when on the ball, I felt I could take them on easily. I’m almost crying from the emotion. The feeling is so strong, we want to win this, fight together. These youngsters…I am so proud.”
The decision to substitute Robin van Persie for the previously unused Huntelaar seemed a strange one from Van Gaal, but the coach insisted he knew it was the correct decision.
“This manager does what he wants, he wants to win. If we think it’s better for the team, we sub someone.
“Looking at the team spirit and the physical possibilities, I knew we had a great chance, even after falling behind. The cooling break gave us time to execute our Plan B.
The 62-year-old then praised Robben, who gave a speech to his team-mates during the second-half water break.
“[Robben] is there for the mental part, I am there for the tactical part,” he said.
Dirk Kuyt, used as a left wing-back for the second game in a row, admitted it was a difficult match in the extreme Brazilian heat and also revealed that it was a special and emotional day for him with the game falling on the anniversary of his father’s death.
“When you fall behind in the second half, it becomes very tough. And the whole team deserves credit when you come back like that. I have never played in a temperature like this. I’ve been to Aruba on holiday quite often, it was similar. You can’t do anything.
“I told van Gaal, if you think you need me at right back, I can do that as well. We knew what we had to do if we would fall behind. We had a plan B. That is such a luxury.
“It was a special day for me. It was exactly seven years ago that my father passed away. If you become the seventh player that reaches 100 caps, it’s really a great feeling.”