Performing with real maturity, Mexico were highly impressive as they swept aside the Netherlands in their semi-final at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 in Chiclayo. The scoreline may have been fairly cruel in the end, but El Tri nonetheless completely dominated their opponents, who came into the game with an under-strength defence that was hit with another injury after just four minutes. In contrast, Mexico were solid as rocks at the back and were led by the unique talent of Dos Santos going forward. They can now look forward to Sunday's final, where either Brazil or Turkey will have to be at the top of their game to stand any chance.
"We simply played the way we had to play," explained an elated Jésus Ramirez after the final whistle. "I didn't expect us to win by so many goals, but I was convinced of our potential. I think we were far superior to the Dutch today and I say that with a lot of respect, because they're an excellent team. It's a dream to be going to the final. The boys have worked really hard to get there and they deserve everything that's happening to them."
As always, Chiclayo was buffeted by winds on 29 September, and the strong gale played into Mexico's hands at the start of the match. Thus it was no surprise that the Tri got off to a flying start, with Adrian Adrete and Carlos Vela heavily involved early on. The Dutch seemed slightly lost and were hit by a fresh setback when Mike Van der Kooij picked up an injury and had to be substituted only four minutes into the encounter. With Jordy Buijs suspended and de Dirk Marcellis sidelined with injury, the last thing Ruud Kaiser would have wanted was to lose yet another defender so quickly. "We started well and we had the best chances. Then Mike van der Kooij got injured and all our problems began," lamented the Dutch side's coach.
Paradoxically, though, that early reverse served to focus the Europeans on the task in hand. Moments later, Diego Bisewar broke free and curled in an inviting cross for Niels Vorthoren, who found himself unmarked in front of Sergio Arias's goal. His header sailed over the bar (8'), but with Ruud Vormer omnipresent in midfield, the Dutch were starting to find their feet.
Mexico began to rely on counter-attacks and almost broke the deadlock from one when Cesar Villaluz collected the ball following a sublime one-two and sent a lob over Tim Krul. It was a fantastic effort, but he was ultimately denied by a brilliant headed clearance on the goal-line from Erik Pieters, on for Van der Kooij (12'). The Cruz Azul striker refused to be silenced though, and his second attempt sent his team in front. Advancing down the right wing, he shook off his marker and raced towards goal with a blistering burst of acceleration before unleashing a thunderous shot that caught Krul off guard (1:0, 33'). The local crowd, largely sympathetic to the cause of the tricolores, exploded with joy and admiration. "I got the ball on the wing, accelerated and shot hard inside the near post. I'll never forget that moment or this day," declared Villaluz, as he left the changing rooms with a wide grin on his face.
Villaluz unstoppable on the right
The Dutch defence were clearly suffering on their left, where Villaluz advanced with impunity, and he broke clear again five minutes before half-time, only to graze the crossbar with a shot (40'). Mexico soon doubled their lead after the break, though, and in quite stunning circumstances too. Giovani Dos Santos made to take a free-kick in a dangerous position, but rushed into the area instead and, after being fed with the ball, sent a perfect cross from the left for Hector Moreno to head in (2:0, 50'). It was a goal worthy of any professional outfit.
It seemed to be a fatal blow as far as the confidence of the Dutch players was concerned, and that impression was magnified when Niels Vorthoren somehow missed an open goal after profiting from good work from Diego Biseswar (55'). The Oranje were obviously not at their best, and minutes later Krul managed to throw the ball straight to Vela. The Guadalajara striker accepted his gift with gratitude and sent back a vicious shot that just fizzed wide (59').
The third goal was not long in coming, however, and once again Dos Santos made a telling contribution. His visionary pass picked out Villaluz deep inside the area, and the forward beat Krul to notch up his second strike of the evening (3:0, 61'). That sounded the death knell for the Netherlands' hopes of making it to the final, and, as their heads dropped, Ever Guzman took advantage to hit the target one last time in the final minute (4:0, 90'). The scoreline was harsh, yet there was no mistaking the sheer superiority of the Mexicans on the day. Now they must wait and see who they are to face in the final on Sunday, but whoever it is - either Brazil or Turkey - they will have their work cut out against Jésus Ramirez's charges.
The Dutch, on the other hand, were left to reflect on what might have been. "Mike's injury was the straw that broke the camel's back," concluded a very disappointed Ruud Kaiser afterwards. "After that, they opened the scoring and it was all over. We came out of a very tough group and had to fight to the very last minute, whereas the Mexicans were through after their second match. No doubt that helped make the difference as well."
Naturally, the mood was far brighter in the Mexican camp, where Ramirez was more than happy to answer questions about the game as he sucked on a lollipop: "Our principal strength is that we have a perfectly balanced team, and we proved it tonight. We were superior in every area. Above all, everyone, including our staff, has been convinced we could win ever since we got here. That's the key. Whether we play Turkey or Brazil, it doesn't change anything: we want to lift the trophy."