The cliches about Mexico at the World Cup are alive and well, thanks to yet another Round of 16 exit in Fortaleza. Mexico's loss to the Netherlands was another painful reminder of the "ya merito" and the "jugamos como nunca, predimos como siempre" labels that have branded Mexico at the World Cup since their exit on penalties to Germany in 1986.
While a lot of folks want to blame Arjen Robben for his dive, or Miguel Herrera for his pre-mature move to hold the lead with 30 minutes left to play, the game turned on a play that Mexico was lucky not to get a penalty.
Late in the first half, a slopy pass by Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez was intercepted by Robben, he drove into Mexico's 18 before colliding with Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno. There should have been a penalty called, but there was not. But Mexico's fate was sealed when Hector Moreno tried, but could not put any pressure on his leg. He was done for the day with a fractured tibia. A terrible shame for a player who, along with Memo Ochoa and Hector Herrera, had been by far Mexico's best players at the tournament. A move away from Espanyol to a bigger club seemed certain after the tournament. Now he has an arduous 6 month recovery to fight through.
The injury forced Herrera to bring in 21-year old Diego Reyes. Reyes will one day be a fine defender and will anchor Mexico's defense for years. But yesterday he was in over his head with Robben and co. Sure, Mexico scored a great goal by Gio Dos Santos, and for 40 minutes they held off the Dutch. But the Dutch kept coming, and they kept attacking Reyes' side. Herrera preferred to play the counter by subbing in Chicharito, but his midfield was spent. Not a good choice. Mexico could not dispossess or even maintain possession. Not a good combination against a team like Holland.
After Snejder's first one, there was little doubt as to which team was going to get a second one. Whether in was in stoppage or extra time, Mexico had no response. Robben's chicanery sped up the inevitable conclusion. In the post-game wake, Herrera, as we knew he would, partly blamed the ref for the loss. But he also realized that he erred in ceding so much possession to the Dutch so early. It is not often that a Mexican coach acknowledges his own mistakes.
Despite the loss, one cannot look at Mexico's World Cup as anything less than a success. Herrera did not get his complete team until two weeks before the tournament and only played two friendlies with his full isde. Injuries in the midfield forced him to improvise, and the results made Hector Herrera and JJ Vazquez stars, and gave new life to Andres Guardado. The fact that they made this far was a surprise.
He will likely be named the coach for the Russia 18 process, and if he survives that (which is a 50/50 bet right now at best), then he'll get his chance for redemption. His chance to bury the monikers that have burdened Mexico for 30 years.