With three minutes left on regulation, Mexico appeared to escape the Round of 16 for the first time since 1986. Unfortunately, for a nation that has been exceptionally devoted to their national team, "El Tri" again fell short of reaching the quarterfinals.
Mexico is stuck in Neverland, a place where imagination can take you anywhere. And Mexican fans had already imagined their team in the World Cup semifinals anticipating a win against either Greece or Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.
The dream for Mexico turned real momentarily when fairy dust fell on the shoulders of Giovani Dos Santos who fired a volley past Jasper Cillessen. The homes of millions of Mexican families trembled with joy.
Happy thoughts are all you need to fly in Neverland and there was an abundance of them on the field, on the Mexican bench, and all around Mexico- until the final five minutes came around. Then, Mexico's unfortunate World Cup history and the pressure of 20 years of failure slowly began to creep in. A couple corner kicks later, those happy thoughts turned into anxiety.
With two minutes to go in regulation, Wesley Sneijder appeared out of nowhere to crush those happy thoughts into pieces. Mexico couldn't grow out of the frustration that took over their eleven men on the field.
No one felt like flying anymore. The game was tied, but even the Dutch could sense the fear flowing through the blood of the Mexican players. The inevitable feeling of falling short again outweighed the optimism the team needed to overcome Sneijder's heartbreaking equalizer.
Suddenly, it was hard to imagine Mexico in the quarterfinals and much less in the World Cup semifinals. But when you are stuck in Neverland for so long, you start to drag others into this fantasy world to the point you even convince them that you belong there forever.
Portuguese referee, Pedro Proenca, joined Mexico in Neverland and he too put his imagination to work. Arjen Robben's dramatic fall inside the Mexican box was perceived by Proenca as a foul- an imaginary foul evidenced by slow motion replays that captured the moment from every angle.
"El Tri" will spend another four years in Neverland, thinking about the "what ifs" and wondering about all the things that could've changed their destiny in Brazil. The next exit door out of Neverland is in Russia, during sunset in a summer day of 2018.
Source: Leigh Teschner / Soccerly.com