Klaas Jan Huntelaar kept his cool in the heat of Fortaleza as Holland stunned Mexico with an injury-time winner
The Schalke striker fired home a penalty to put the Dutch through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup as they inflicted an agonising defeat on Mexico who were within two minutes of an historic win, leading through Giovani dos Santos’ excellent strike.
Wesley Sneijder’s blistering volley pulled Holland level before Arjen Robben won a penalty and substitute Huntelaar smashed it home to make it 2-1 to send the Dutch fans into ecstasy.
It was familiar misery for Mexico – it is now six consecutive World Cups where they have always been knocked out at this stage of the tournament.
It was 30 degrees C and 70 per cent humidity meaning that FIFA’s limit had been passed allowing for official cooling and drinks breaks midway through each half.
Mexico looked more comfortable with conditions and took the game to the Dutch, with Miguel Layun blazing over from 25 yards and then firing wide, before skinning full-back Paul Verhaegh, but his cross just evaded Dos Santos. Hector Herrera was the next to threaten for the Mexicans after some lovely build-up, but he just snatched at his shot and it drifted wide.
Herrera caused the Holland fans to sweat even more when Ron Vlaar followed through a clearance with a high foot in the head, but his penalty claims were waved away.
Dos Santos then combined nicely with Oribe Peralta but the Villarreal striker’s low shot was gathered by Jasper Cillessen.
Holland were reliant on a flash of brilliance from Robben or Robin van Persie and each caused some fear for Mexico.
But Mexico’s dominance paid off three minutes after the break, when Dos Santos fastened onto Vlaar’s attempted headed clearance and, running across goal under pressure from Daley Blind, smacked a low shot back inside the far post.
Holland had to respond and they gave it everything. Only a point-blank save from Guillermo Ochoa kept them out – Stefan De Vrij arrived to thump in Robben’s corner but the ball hit Ochoa’s gloves and head and glanced onto the inside of the post and clear.
Robben had another decent penalty appeal turned down before Ochoa bailed Mexico out again when one on one with the winger.
Coach Louis van Gaal’s last throw of the dice was to give Jan Huntelaar his first chance of the tournament, in place of the tired-looking Van Persie, and that proved decisive.
With three minutes of normal time left, Huntelaar won a header from a corner and Sneijder lashed in a volley with such power that Ochoa did not even move.
Then came Robben, once again making the most of contact inside the box from Marquez, leaving Huntelaar to show his class from the spot.