Mexico has fighting chance vs. Holland

Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa attends a soccer training session at the University of...

Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa attends a soccer training session at the University of Fortaleza ahead of their 2014 World Cup Round of 16 match against Netherlands June 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:34 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Considering that Mexico was but a few seconds away from watching the World Cup on television, anything they could get once they got to Brazil, has to be a bonus.

But it doesn’t work that way in sports.

Whether you are a long shot or not, when you get somewhere you want to win.

Mexico goes into their quarterfinal match Sunday in Fortaleza as significant underdogs to the Netherlands.

It won’t bother them a bit.

They weren’t expected to do much at Brazil 2014 but, instead of crashing out, they pushed their way through to the knockout stages.

On the way, Mexico managed to tie the powerful Brazilians. That was a day their coach, Miguel Herrera, called one of the “happiest days of my life.”

What would have been a comfortable matchup for the Netherlands a month ago isn’t so comfortable now.

That’s how far Mexico has come.

Another look at the 3rd goal

On the last day of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, Mexico was losing to Costa Rica and was seconds away from missing out on the tournament.

But the United States were playing Panama in another game. It took a goal by the United States’ Graham Zusi in second-half injury time to get Mexico back into fourth place in the group. They went on to beat New Zealand in a two-game playoff.

It took tremendous fortune for the Mexicans to get where they are -- and the Tricolor aren’t going to waste it.

Mexico will need the good fortune to continue on. They’ll be playing a Netherlands team that has been the best team in Brazil so far.

Top players like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie are playing with great confidence. At the back, the Dutch are getting stronger as the tournament progresses.

Mexico will provide a challenge for the Dutch. They will play a tight game at the back and, when the opportunity arises, will launch themselves into a counterattack.

Hernandez celebrates his goal

The biggest challenge of all may be trying to get a ball past Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa.

He has given up only one goal in the tournament. He has been the best keeper in the 32-team spectacle, with his performance against Brazil leaving people shaking their heads.

“We respect (the Netherlands) as we do with all of the other teams, but we know that they are among the favorites to win the Cup and that does not scare us, it motivates us,” Ochoa said. “If we can beat them we will go very far.”

The Dutch have played precision soccer.

“Holland are a team that plays like a computer, very intelligent, with many quality players, and we must be careful of all of them,” Ochoa said. “We have watched their games and seen that they have players who can make a difference, but so have we.”

The Mexicans have been one of the surprise attractions at this tournament, and not only because of Ochoa’s performance.

Herrera, their coach, puts on quite a show of his own on the sideline. The first order in his popularity scale was being able to rebuild a Mexican team that went through four coaches in a relatively short period of time.

But he’s also turned into a unique showman near the pitch. He’ll charge up and down the sideline, waving his arms, jumping up and down. There’s no constraint when it comes to his players. He’ll jump on them, hug them.

His enthusiasm has been contagious.

There is bonus to the winner of this game going forward.

While no one wants to look ahead both teams recognize that the winner of this match will play the winner of Costa Rica and Greece. That’s one step removed from the World Cup semifinals.

If that doesn’t want to make you jump up and down, nothing will.

*Mexico GIFs via @myregularface of GIFgoldmine.com


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