Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa had provided a few more clips for his highlight reel of saves. If the darlings of the
But the Netherlands drew even on a shot that not even the incomparable Ochoa could forbid, then went ahead soon after on a penalty kick to pull a 2-1 win out of the hat.
The Mexicans had conceded one goal through nearly four matches when the Dutch exploited their one glaring deficiency -- defending on set pieces.
A corner kick caromed off the head of Klaas Jan Huntelaar and back to unmarked Wesley Sneijder. A blink later, the Dutch finally had scored.
Only four more minutes had ticked off when Arjen Robben was upended inside the edge of the box by Raul Marquez. Robben's pleas for a penalty kick in the first half on a harsher tackle had gone unheeded. This time, referee Pedro Proenca of Portugal pointed to the white dot, triggering outrage among the Mexicans, and Huntelaar hammered the ball past Ochoa.
The home-continent advantage, a World Cup article of faith that is numerically verifiable but not easily explained, was plainly evident in the first half.
The most sweltering day of the tournament persuaded FIFA to schedule the first rehydration breaks, at the 30th- and 75-minute marks. Mexico, more acclimated to the steep temperature (upper 80s) and humidity, seemed to profit from the weather that is common in its homeland.
The underdogs attacked while the Dutch, who curtailed their pre-game warmups to conserve energy, fiddled around with the ball. Only one shot was tried, this by a team with a tournament-best 10 goals in group play, three each by Robin van Persie and Robben.
The Robin and Robben show never materialized, and Van Persie was lifted in the second half.
After Mexico nosed in front with Giovani Dos Santos' chest-to-foot goal during the 48th minute, the Dutch cranked it up and wound up with a dozen shots in the second half.