Mexico (2-0-1) vs. Netherlands (3-0-0), Noon (ET)
06/29/2014 8:12 AM
06/29/2014 8:13 AM
Fortaleza, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Mexico and the Netherlands will meet in the round of 16 at the Estadio Castelao on Sunday for what is sure to be an entertaining clash.
The Netherlands exceeded many pre-tournament predictions by not only getting out of a stacked Group B, but also by winning all three of its matches.
Its reward is a potentially difficult fixture against a plucky Mexico side that is growing with confidence with each passing match.
Mexico almost failed to qualify for the tournament and needed some late heroics from United States international Graham Zusi to book El Tri a spot in a playoff with New Zealand.
But the qualification struggles are clearly a thing of the past as Mexico cruised through Group A action with relative ease, winning two matches by a combined score of 4-1 while playing to a scoreless draw with Brazil.
"It felt like a weight had been lifted," striker Javier Hernandez told FIFA.com after Mexico's defeat of Croatia in the Group A finale, a game in which Chicharito bagged his first World Cup goal. "This whole year has been very tough. Players need confidence more than anything else, and I've been very short of it. Very few people have shown faith in me over this past year."
Next up for Mexico is a meeting with an impressive Dutch side that managed to take maximum points from one of the World Cup's more difficult groups.
The Netherlands crushed reigning champion Spain in its opening match, coming from behind to get a 5-1 win. The Dutch overturned another deficit in their next match to get a 3-2 victory against Australia. They then locked up top spot by cruising to a 2-0 defeat of Chile.
It was a surprising performance in the group stage from the Netherlands, a side that has done well to erase the lingering disappointment from a Euro 2012 campaign that saw the Dutch exit the tournament after only three games.
But while the inexperience in the Dutch squad has made the wins even more impressive to outsiders, those in the team are not so surprised.
"People usually just look at the star players and don't consider the team as a whole," midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum told FIFA.com. "Plenty of teams have more famous, perhaps even better players than us. But what everybody forgets is that this is a team game. We're playing well, and we're playing as a team."
The winner of Sunday's clash certainly stands a good chance of advancing to the semifinals as it will face either Costa Rica or Greece in the quarters.