Robben too hot to handle as Holland stun Mexico in 38C
Dive row overshadows late Holland comeback as conditions give a taste of what to expect in Qatar
Holland 2 Mexico 1. The Dutch staged a dramatic late comeback against to break Mexican hearts and incur the wrath of their coach Miguel Herrera. He alleged that Mexico were bundled out of the World Cup by poor refereeing decisions and singled out Arjen Robben as the man responsible for fooling the officials.
It was Robben's tumble under a challenge from Rafael Marquez on 90 minutes that gave substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the chance to put the Dutch into the quarter-finals.
It was a victory Holland barely deserved on a day when the temperature in the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza reached 38.8C. It was too hot, to be honest, for football, even though Fifa made World Cup history by allowing two water breaks midway through each half. That eased the players' suffering to a degree but the sluggish pace of the game gave an indication of what awaits the world in 2022 if Qatar stage the tournament in temperatures that will be even more ferocious.
The first-half was forgettable, neither side doing much to take the fans' minds of the searing heat, and it was only when Giovani Dos Santos, the former Tottenham and Barcelona player, put Mexico ahead on 48 minutes with a stunning strike that the game began to emerge from its slumber.
Even then the Dutch struggled to find any rhythm and it was only in the final quarter when Robben found a second wind, and Huntelaar replaced the ineffectual Robin van Persie that Holland began resembling the side that had thrashed Spain 5-1 in their tournament opener.
But it was midfielder Wesley Sneijder – winning his 103rd cap – who levelled for Holland two minutes from time, the veteran firing the ball home from the edge of the area to send the massed ranks of Orange-clad fans wild. Barely had they time to retake their seats when Robben went down after being caught by Marquez. Though the Dutchman made a meal of the challenge there was contact and the Portuguese referee was right to point to the spot. Huntelaar made no mistake with his spot kick and Holland advanced to the last eight where they'll play Costa Rica, who beat Greece on penatlies in the evening kick-off.
Not surprisingly, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera laid the blame for his side's defeat at the feet of officials. "The reason was the referee," he said, when asked about the loss. "He put us out of the next stage... if the referees start giving fouls that they invent then you leave the World Cup due to events alien to you. In four of the games here, three of them saw referees against Mexico. At least we expect that the refereeing committee looks at this and the referee goes home just like us."
Herrera accused Robben of diving three times in the game, adding: "The referee should have booked him the first time. The referee should go back and caution the guy who tried to cheat. If that's the case Robben doesn't do it the second time. If you don't do anything the first time, the player knows he won't be sent off."
Confronted with Herrera's accusations, Robben admitted that on one occasion he had indeed dived. "I must apologise," said. "The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn't be doing that."
Nonetheless Robben didn't appear overly contrite at his chicanery, declaring: "I'm almost crying from the emotions. The feeling is so strong, we want to win this, to fight together."