Key Battles That Will Shape Mexico's Clash with Netherlands
Mexico could advance to the World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, but the task will be far from easy. El Tri must defeat Netherlands, one of the top contenders to win the tournament.
El Tri have only played the fifth game of a World Cup when they hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986. Away from home soil, Mexico have fallen short in the past five editions.
The Oranje are one of the deadliest teams out there. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie make up the lethal trifecta of attackers.
The midfield is equally talented, with players of the likes of Nigel de Jong and Jonathan de Guzman.
Mexico will not have a walk in the park, but they can certainly give a run for Netherlands' money.
Guillermo Ochoa vs. Robin Van Persie
Guillermo Ochoa better be at his best if Mexico want to have a chance.
The free-agent goalkeeper proved his value against Brazil. According to Squawka.com, he stopped seven attacks from Neymar, Oscar, Fred, David Luiz, just to name a few.
Ochoa has been one of Miguel Herrera's most consistent men so far. His battle with Robin van Persie could be even more memorable that the one he had with Brazil's No.10.
The Manchester United forward has already shown his magic. He scored a brace against Spain and put the ball away once with Australia.
He is the complete player, who can kick the ball from outside the box or at close range, plus his aerial game is delightful.
Francisco Rodriguez vs. Arjen Robben
Francisco Rodriguez has been doing a great job so far, but this time he will meet with the fastest player in the World Cup history.
In the opening match vs. Spain, Arjen Robben registered a top speed of 37 km/h, as per FIFA (H/T espnfc.com).
El Maza has surprised with his recent form as he picked up the slack in just a matter of days. He has been one of the most solid Mexicans on the pitch.
He completed 88 percent of his passes and didn't have a single defensive error, as reported by Squwka.com.
It wouldn't be odd to see Paul Aguilar or Rafael Marquez helping the Cruz Azul centre-back. The double mark on Robben could come in handy.
Rafael Marquez vs. Wesley Sneijder
Rafael Marquez has been Mexico's leader, and against Netherlands, it won't be any different.
His flexibility gives El Tri dynamism and security in the first half of the pitch. Marquez's experience has been fundamental for the team's structure.
Rafa will face an epic challenge with Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman has yet to convince and show his true level, while Marquez has played as he did when he was with Barcelona.
Ball possession will be key in this battle. Rafa needs to nullify Sneijder to cut out one of Netherlands' main distribution channels to the flanks.
But make no mistake, this will be tricky for the Mexican as he will probably provide some support to whoever takes Jose Juan Vazquez's place, leaving him with a titanic task.
Hector Herrera vs. Nigel De Jong
Hector Herrera has amazed with his fine touch and creativity in the midfield.
The Porto footballer had a key role in the group stage. He registered one assist, covered 32,226 meters and recovered 15 balls, as per FIFA.com.
Herrera has managed to run through the right flank freely to help in the attacking zone; he has also provided support in the midfield, which produced a great partnership with Jose Juan Vazquez.
In the meantime, Nigel De Jong has been in charge of the center of the pitch for Netherlands. He has completed 80 percent of his passes and has had two shots on target, according to Squawka.com.
Currently playing for Milan, De Jong has been a fantastic link between lines. His intelligence has been instrumental for the Dutch attack.
Paul Aguilar vs. Daley Blind
The flanks will be very busy. As usual, Miguel Layun will take over the left and Paul Aguilar will be in charge of the right.
But Aguilar will have the toughest duel as he has to go past Daley Blind, who has had a dream tournament.
Blind assisted two goals against Spain, one of them for Robin van Persie's diving header. His strength and speed are two assets that make the difference on the pitch.
Aguilar is an agile right-back who can cover the opponent tightly. He also has enough power to unbalance his rivals' defense and create goal opportunities with crosses and diagonals. This is why he will be key in Mexico's attack.
The Club America defender must be aware of counter-attacks, which means he will have to get up and down the pitch on a regular basis.
Giovani Dos Santos vs. Stefan De Vrij
Giovani dos Santos has to bring his A-game to the round of 16, especially through the center of the pitch.
The leader of the Dutch back line is Stefan De Vrij. He is a ferocious centre-back who can join the attack in set pieces; he scored Netherlands' third goal vs. Spain.
Dos Santos must provide El Tri with depth and diversity in the attacking zone, especially if Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar are too busy covering the flanks.
The Villarreal footballer proved his worth through the center of the box against Cameroon, as he scored two goals that were wrongly disallowed.
His performance with Brazil and Croatia was not as notable, mainly because he was trying to steal balls by pressing the goalkeeper and the defenders.
This is the kind of game where Dos Santos' creativity will be very much needed.