Mexico is out of the World Cup after a gut-wrenching defeat to the Netherlands that saw El Tri concede twice late.Mexico was eliminated from the World Cup in a fashion difficult to comprehend or stomach for fans of El Tri. The Netherlands posed a huge threat coming in, but Mexico was largely able to neutralize that threat. Even after Hector Moreno left the field El Tri defended well. Gio dos Santos' stunning goal put Mexico on the doorstep of the quarterfinals, but in the end it's another round of 16 exit.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday's 2-1 Netherlands win:
Building blocks for the future: Was there any good to come out of this match? After Mexico had a glimpse of the fifth World Cup game that has so cruelly eluded it, had it nearly locked up, and ended up losing on a stoppage-time penalty kick, it's tough for Miguel Herrera to accentuate the positive. Yet, it's tough to see the World Cup as a failure for El Tri. Mexico got out of a difficult group, had several players break out and seems to have found a leader that can both motivate the team and cope with the pressure that comes with being Mexico's head man.
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Not only that, but Herrera showed a willingness to adapt during matches that we hadn't previously seen before from the former America man. International football is difficult to judge, as the ultimate theater throws its doors open only once every four years. Yet, Mexico now knows it has a formidable side for next year's Gold Cup and both the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas. Memo Ochoa and Hector Herrera rising to international prominence, Gio dos Santos and Gallito Vazquez rising to the occasion, and Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun showing they can be the fullbacks Mexico needs. If Mexico displays the same mental strength, it has a bright future - that was in doubt after an abysmal qualification campaign.
The finish: You probably could've worked this one out. Mexico defended well but the Netherlands was surging forward. There were some nervous moments in the final half hour, but for the most part the North American side absorbed the pressure and counted on a few counterattacks. Arjen Robben was incredibly creative during much of the match and had a penalty shout denied earlier on that was more legitimate than the stoppage-time decision that went his way.
The penalty will be the moment remembered - and debated - for a very long time, but the 88th minute goal off a corner kick, while a lovely finish from Wesley Sneijder, picked at a wound Mexico has been trying to heal for quite some time. It won't generate the same controversy, and it would've been difficult to stop, but the equalizer was another in a long series of failures from Mexico to stop the opposition from scoring off of set piece. There's only so much Ochoa can do. His defenders must help in the future.
No matter where you place the fault, Mexico is out of the World Cup in the round of 16. Again. That's bad news for Mexico fans.
Hector Moreno's departure: Inital reports indicated the 26-year-old center back did not have a leg fracture, but those accounts are now being contradicted. Whatever the diagnosis, Moreno picked up a serious left-leg injury and had to make way just before the break. Moreno quietly goes about his business, not garnering the praise (or hate) center back partner Rafa Marquez does for his attacking prowess and disciplinary record or that Maza Rodriguez does for his haphazard defending. But Moreno is the best defender on the team, a player poised to be a rock at the back of a big European side like he has been with Espanyol.
Moreno and Mexico will hope the injury is nothing serious, and he can still sign on with a bigger club and slot into the lineup immediately. Diego Reyes did what he could but has nowhere near the experience stopping top attackers that Moreno does and also lacks the poise Moreno shows. Herrera's men missed Moreno. They'll hope he joins them again soon.