From Ground Zero: Dutch go past Mexicans, Greece lose to Costa Rica

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena from Fortaleza

With less than five minutes to go for the final whistle, the Mexican fans in the stands were celebrating their team’s 1-0 lead over the Netherlands. But then in three minutes, the game turned upside down. The final score read 2-1 in favour of the Dutch, and the Mexicans were told to go home once again.

After dominating the match, Mexico left the field as the defeated side. And they lost, despite several factors in their favour, namely: a)Heat: One major factor was the heat which was the central characteristic of the match. As the temperature reached 39 degrees Celsius at one point, the Dutch asked for a water break. The Europeans were not able to stand the heat. b) Lively fans: Another factor in favour of the Central American team was the large number of Mexican fans, who sang during the whole game, overshadowing the orange section of the stadium. c) Goalkeeper Ochoa was outstanding: Another factor in favour of the Mexicans was their goalkeeper Ochoa, playes superbly once again as he made two crucial saves when his team was leading 1-0. He was voted the Man of the Match. d) Luck: The luck factor too was on the side of Mexico. Earlier in the game, the Dutch lost De Jong, who got hurt within minutes of the first half and had to be replaced by Bruno Martins Indi, who himself has been recovering from an injury which he suffered in the match against Australia.

But Holland have a factor called Arjen Robben, whom many consider the best player in this World Cup so far. It was Robben who made some vital run ins in the second half after the Mexicans took the lead through Giovani dos Santos who scored a beauty from outside the box.. It was at this stage that Mexican coach Miguel Herrera made a huge tactical mistake. He substituted Dos Santos with a mid-fielder. If the idea behind the withdrawal of the main striker was to strengthen the defence, then it backfired.

With Robben who attacked from the right, started helping his team get corners. After several attempted corners, the ball, on the rebound from Ochoa, fell at the feet of Sneijder, who sent it past the goalie with a powerful shot. At that time, the game was just two minutes from the end of normal time.

Then the official time board signalled six minutes of injury time and the Dutch realised there is a chance to go for the kill. With Robben on the rampage and the Dutch defenders moving up the flanks, the Mexican wall began to crumble in the dying minutes of the game. As Robben made another charge from the right, he was tripped over by Mexican captain Rafael Márquez just inside the box. The referee gave a penalty and Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, who had entered the field in place of Robin van Persie, finished the game with a perfect spot kick.

Mexico, which were looking all set to move to the quarter-finals for the first time, snatched a defeat from jaws of victory. Now, the Netherlands will play against Costa Rica at Salvador on Saturday (July 5).

The biggest surprise of the World Cup has been Costa Rica who qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time by defeating Greece 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in their game in the Pernambuco Arena in Recife.

For the Costa Ricans, their captain Bryan Ruiz opened the score in the second half. But in the last minute of the second half, Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos brought his team back into the game with a timely equaliser.

Though the first half of the game was not very exciting, in the 6th minute of the second half, Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell attacked from the left and fed the ball to Ruiz who sent a curling low shot into the left corner. With the Greeks failing to level the score and missing chances, the stage was getting nervy. But tragedy struck the Costa Ricans in the 2oth minute in the second half, when their defender Oscar Duarte received a second yellow card and was sent off.

With their rivals reduced to 10 men, Greece started pressurizing the Costa Rican defence. In one of the several attacks, Costa Rican goalie Navas blocked a shot from the Greece forward Gekas, but Sokratis sent the ball past him after latching on to the rebound.

At extra time, the Greeks continued pushing hard, especially with crosses in the box but Navas made some big saves. As the score remained tied at 1-1 at the end of extra time, it was time for penalty kicks. In the penalty shoot-out, Costa Rica hit their target. For Greece, Gekas wasted his kick as it was blocked by Navas. With that the Greek tragedy set in.

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