Holland Stumbles to a Late Comeback over Mexico
It's the prime directive in sports.
Never, ever, ever put a decision in the official's hands.
Mexico broke it. And now El Tri is on its way home from the World Cup.
Captain Rafael Marquez, of all people, got to the party too late to curtail an Arjen Robben cut on the end line with two minutes of stoppage time remaining of a 1-1 match. Why such a seasoned veteran put himself in a position to let the speedy Dutchman take advantage of a planted foot is anyone's guess.
Huntelaar was on for Robin van Persie, who had been bottled up all day by the Mexican defense. El Tri's strategy was to do the same with Wesley Sneijder and Robben, but it's easier said than done.
However, it would've been much more attainable if Mexico didn't go into a shell after Giovani dos Santos' sharp strike in the 49th minute:
That move looked dicier by the minute. Mexico was shaky defending set plays, and in the 88th minute, not even the brilliant Guillermo Ochoa could deny Sneijder after one of El Tri's forwards absent-mindedly abandoned the Dutchman during a rebound off a free kick.
Perhaps Herrera felt Aquino's insertion would minimize any further close calls from Robben, one of which was probably the key play of the contest. It came in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. Here's the way Alan Tyers of London's Daily Telegraph described it:
Marquez has given it away and [Robin van Persie] comes with a powerful, dangerous burst ... And now we have a rare sighting of the double shoulda-been-a-penalty! Marquez and Moreno sandwich Robben in the box and they have both fouled him. Marquez with a little kick in the calf and Moreno with a wild sliding lunge. Either or both of those should have been given.
Referee Pedro Proenca of Portugal was upfield at the time, as this situation was the result of a careless giveaway between defenders. He rightly wasn't going to call what he didn't definitely witness, but there's absolutely no doubt this play was in his mind when he gave the penalty to Robben at the game's fateful closing moments.
In essence, Marquez got away with it once. In Proenca's mind, that was enough, and the veteran defender should've realized it.
No matter how Robben wants to couch it, the Mexican fans and media can whine all they want about the call and how their team deserved better. Doesn't matter. The prime directive of sports was violated. And they paid for it.