Soccer World Cup

Netherlands Advances to Quarterfinals Thanks to Controversial Penalty in Stoppage Time

Netherlands winger Arjen Robben and Mexico defender Rafael Marquez

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Netherlands should be very grateful that they were awarded the very questionable penalty in stoppage time, because they were thoroughly outplayed by Mexico for a large majority of the game.

Arjen Robben, who is notorious for flopping in the box at the slightest hint of contact, lived up to that reputation in the 92nd minute as he cut back up the field from his opponent’s end line to be lightly clipped by Rafael Marquez. Make no mistake about this play, the contact was very minimal and Robben sold it to perfection. His legs flailed up in the air to project a much harsher foul and in real time, the play looks like a foul from the referee’s vantage point.

While Robben’s actions were a bit disgraceful, Marquez is still at fault for giving Robben even the slightest reason to go down in the box. Marquez lunges at the ball after Robben’s cut-back and and misses it entirely, but barely touches Robben’s planted foot. Marquez has a penchant for bone-headed plays in crucial moments of games, and this is yet another one to add to his collection.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted the spot kick in the 94th minute to give Netherlands the deciding goal in a 2-1 victory. Huntelaar had replaced Robin Van Persie in the 76th minute, and also provided the headed assist on Wesley Sneijder‘s rocket of a tying goal in the 88th minute.

The substitution was a bold move by Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal, but it paid off in spades for his team, and as a result, they will move on as one of the final eight teams in the tournament.

Mexico can hold their heads high for the excellent performance they put forth on Sunday, but you can bet that there will be a bit of a letdown after leading the match at the 88 minute mark only to see a berth in the quarterfinals slip away, or be taken away, depending on how you look at it.

Giovani Dos Santos produced one of the goals of the tournament with his stunning half-volley from just outside the box. Dos Santos had dribbled past two Dutch defenders to create enough space to unleash a firecracker of a shot that was out of the reach of Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has been the standout at his position for this 2014 World Cup and his performance today was world-class yet again.

Netherlands will now face the winner of Sunday’s second match between Costa Rica and Greece.