Reigning European champions the Netherlands have been eliminated after the first round of the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup, their 3-2 loss to Mexico not enough to see them through to the last 16. The Oranje missed a raft of chances in both halves, in keeping with their misfiring theme in all three Group A games, and Mexican goalkeeper Richard Sanchez had himself a night to remember, even saving a penalty kick.

The Dutch came out flying in the first half, creating more chances than the hosts but failing to finish the opportunities. Inside the first eight minutes, the European champs had three decent scoring chances. First Memphis Depay dribbled well into the area only to be denied by Sanchez in the Mexican goal. Kyle Ebecelio was next to try his luck just a minute later, but Sanchez again had the measure of the effort. Then in the eighth minute, it was Yassine Ayoub’s turn to be denied by the outstanding Mexican keeper.

However, the home side, in their first real attack of substance, gave the Dutch a lesson in finishing, taking the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute. Carlos Fierro laid the ball in for stylish winger Giovani Casillas, who made no mistake poking home with his left foot from just outside the penalty area. The Europeans were shocked, and they responded with three more chances from Anass Achahbar, Depay and Ayoub, all of who missed. Mexico again made the Dutch pay for their profligacy, when Casillas’ cross was met by the unmarked Fierro, who passed the ball easily into the back of the net.

The Dutch finally found their way to goal shortly after the interval. Depay hit in a free-kick from 35 yards out, clearly a delivery rather than a shot. But the service was missed by everyone in the crowded penalty area and bounced directly past Sanchez and into the back of the net. The Dutch continued to pile on the pressure in search of an equaliser, and in the 58th minute they were awarded a penalty when captain Francisco Flores was judged to have handled the ball. However, Sanchez was equal to this task as well, diving right to make a fine save on Achahbar.  

Shortly after, in the 63rd minute, Ebecelio picked up a fine through ball and slammed without breaking stride from 15 yards out to draw the Dutch level. The game was wide open in the dying minutes, and Mexico’s Arturo Gonzales sealed the affair 3-2 in stoppage-time while the Dutch were stretched in search of a goal.

Mexico finish top of Group A with a perfect nine points from their three games, while the Netherlands are out of the running. Congo’s draw with Korea DPR in the other section game was enough to see the Africans through in second place, while the East Asians join the Dutch on a flight home.