Going out of the FIFA World Cup™ after conceding twice in the last five minutes is a bitter pill for any footballer to swallow and so, as is to be expected, dejection and sadness were etched on the faces of the Mexican players following their dramatic 2-1 defeat by the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
Even so, everyone involved with El Tri is aware that their impressive displays on Brazilian soil must not be vain. With that in mind and despite their disappointment, determination and calm remained the order of the day for the Mexican duo that spoke exclusively to FIFA.com: goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and coach Miguel Herrera.
On the back of another fine performance here at Brazil 2014, Ochoa, who was voted Budweiser Man of the Match, emphasised the importance of focusing on the positives of this campaign. “Losing like that, in the last few minutes, is tough to take, especially as we’d played so well. But you mustn’t forget that we were up against a really great team and we came very close indeed [to winning].”
The reverse against the Oranje means that El Tri have now exited at this stage at six consecutive World Cups, though the gifted keeper insisted this trend had not turned into a mental block. “No way at all,” said Ochoa. “We could have won this game but you have to admit that the Dutch have great players. We lost because of footballing reasons, not psychological ones.”
In Ochoa's view, what is the best way to recover from such a weighty blow?: “There’ll be plenty of time later for analysis and to think about what we need to do next. What’s clear to me right now is that we can leave here with our heads held high. We need to keep working hard and come back even stronger for the next World Cup.”
Herrera eyes 2018
Also keen to look on the bright side was coach Herrera, who insisted his players “should have no regrets, because we were the better team. Everyone had been saying how great a side the Netherlands were, but I think that we managed to control them. Unfortunately their equaliser came from a lack of concentration on our part, then the penalty [winner] came right after that.
“I think we were just lacking a bit of astuteness: we should have taken the ball out to the corners, made sure we didn’t misplace any passes. Late on we made mistakes in a couple of situations that we could have handled better, when we could have run down the dying minutes. But I repeat, I don’t think that we were weaker than them at any time.”
Echoing the words of his masterful shot-stopper, Herrera also highlighted the need to learn lessons and bounce back stronger in Russia in four years’ time: “Of course, that’s the idea. I think we’ve laid good foundations as we assembled a great side, with very talented and hard-working players. I’m very proud of my lads and I think there’s still a lot we can achieve.
“My intention is to stay in charge of the team,” said Herrera, on his own future in the role. “I’ve spoken to the people at the Mexican FA and I think they’re pleased with the job I’m doing. I’d love to be able to stay on and finish what we’ve started.”
And what about Ochoa? “I’ve really enjoyed this World Cup, which is the first one I’ve played at (he was a non-playing squad member in both 2006 and 2010). On an individual note I’m pleased with how it went, although obviously I’d have loved to win today and keep the adventure going. Even so, I’m certain that we’ll come back stronger.”