RIO DE JANEIRO — It had been almost an hour since Mexico had been bounced from the World Cup and coach Miguel Herrera was still fuming.
A questionable trip by Mexico’s Rafa Marquez — or dive by Netherlands’ Arjen Robben — gave the Dutch a penalty kick four minutes into extra time and ultimately a 2-1 victory. Mexican players were both livid and distraught and Herrera couldn’t hide any of his emotions as he roared from the sidelines and continued to rage during postgame interviews.
“When a ref makes up a call like that,” Herrera said. “We’re going to go home. I hope the ref committee sees and he goes home like us.”
Robben is infamous for his diving and even admitted he dove during the earlier parts of the game. Herrera claimed Robben dove three times, including the one that got Netherlands the winning goal. Some would argue that was a makeup call for Robben who was tripped by Mexican player in the penalty box in the first half, but was given no call.
“If the referee is fair, their second goal would not exist and Robben would be ejected,” Herrera said.
The foul or not foul created quite a stir on social media as fans of both sides debated the call. Law 12 in the FIFA handbook states that contact doesn’t have to be made, and that an attempt to trip an opponent can also result in a penalty. Still, it’s hard to tell — from any angle — exactly whether there was contact. And even if there was contact, was Robben really taken down or was he acting?
While Herrera was upset with the officiating, he also noted that his team didn’t do the things it needed to do to salt away the game. Even up 1-0, Mexico stopped being offensively aggressive and allowed Holland to drive the pace of play. That resulted in a blistering shot by Wesley Sneijder that tied the game at 1-1.
It was more of the same as the game wore down. After a mutually agreed upon water break, Netherlands was able to change its strategy and put more pressure on the Mexican defense. Mexico looked content to take the game into extra time, but Netherlands kept driving.
Mexico has now lost in the Round of 16 six consecutive times, which is more than any other team. It’s also scored first and lost in four knockout games, which is also the most of any World Cup team.
And Herrera knows his team was just a mere minutes — and possibly a bad call — away from changing his team's history.
“You have the match in your hands,” Herrera said. “That’s how we felt.”