For Mexico, Sunday’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup after a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 was hard to swallow.
El Tri held a 1-0 lead until the 88th minute equalizer by Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder and then just moments later disaster struck: Mexico captain Rafael Marquez was called for a penalty kick foul for tripping up Arjen Robben, who had previously appealed for a spot kick on two other occasions.
“The man with the whistle is what is keeping us out of this World Cup,” Mexico manager Miguel Herrera said after the match. “We hope the [FIFA] referee commission sees it and sends him home, just like us.”
Herrera claims that Robben committed a dive each of the three times he hit the deck in the Mexican penalty area. The Dutch winger, who stars for German champions Bayern Munich, has a reputation for baiting referees into calls and he even apologized after the match for diving in the first instance late in the first half.
“Three times he dove,” Herrera stated in his postgame press conference. “From the very first one [the referee] should have given him a yellow card … But that’s what separates a good referee from an average referee.”
The head official, Pedro Proenca, hails from Portugal, a country which is a member of the same European confederation (UEFA) as the Netherlands, a detail which was equally confounding for Herrera who criticized the designation of Proenca when referees from other confederations could have been selected.
Then again, Mexico wasn’t new to refereeing controversy in this World Cup. In the opener against Cameroon they had two goals called off because of non-existent offside calls. And against Croatia, they felt they shoud’ve had a penalty kick for what replays showed was a hand ball committed by a Croatian player in his own box.
“We played four games and in three of them the refereeing was disastrous,” Herrera said.
But it wasn’t all on the referees on Sunday. The colorful Mexican manager admitted that his team lost concentration on the Sneijder equalizer and he even criticized his squad for lacking the guile to see out the victory in the final minutes – “We shouldn’t even have played. We should’ve taken the ball to the corner just like the big teams do,” he said.
And now instead of planning for a quarterfinal against Costa Rica, the Mexicans will be returning home after the Round of 16 for the 6th straight tournament, after they seemed destined for a deep run.
“Today it was a bad referee decision that leaves us out," said Herrera, who indicated that he'll be reassessing his future with the national team. "And I reiterate, we hope that tomorrow or the next day the referee should also be sent home. If they’re going to grade him, he shouldn't be allowed to officiate again at this World Cup.”