Coach Miguel Herrera blamed the World Cup officiating for Mexico's 2-1 loss to Netherlands and El Tri's knockout exit, saying that Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca should have booked Dutch winger Arjen Robben for his theatrics early on.
- Canales: Mexico's dream dies in Dutch defeat
- Bell: El Tri grades -- Mexico wilt at the end
- Marshall: Dutch class shines through
Robben collapsed under a challenge from Rafael Marquez, causing Herrera to blame Proenca.
The Netherlands winger earned an injury-time penalty Sunday and then watched as teammate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted from the spot to give the Dutch the win.
"We ended up losing because he whistled a penalty that did not exist,'' Herrera said, adding that Robben "dived three times. The referee should have cautioned him."
It was heartbreak again for Mexico, which has now reached the second stage of the World Cup six straight times without winning. The last time the team made the quarterfinals was when it hosted the tournament in 1986.
"[The referee should have gone] back and cautioned the guy that tried to cheat and then this would not happen again because we would be saying that if the ref is fair," Herrera said. "Then their second goal wouldn't exist and [Arjen] Robben would have been expelled or suspended with a second yellow card. But if you do nothing the first time then the player knows that the referee won't kick you out, he won't caution you, not say anything."
Herrera questioned the use of a Portuguese referee for the match.
"Why do they bring referees from other confederations, South America, Africa, the Asians if ultimately they are going to have referee from the same confederation of the team you are playing against?" Herrera said. "Because doubtful decisions were always against Mexico."
Herrera blamed the officiating for Mexico's challenges throughout the tournament.
"It seems to me that the reason was the referee, he left us outside the next stage," Herrera said. "If the referee starts marking faults that don't exist and in the end if he invents a penalty of that size you leave the World Cup because of circumstances that are not in your control.
"I repeat: In four matches that we played, in three -- I repeat: three -- we had referees against Mexico," Herrera said. "Two goals against Cameroon, two penalties in one same play against Croatia and today a penalty against us. That at least we expect that the referee will take a look at that and that this gentleman goes home just like us."
Mexico team captain Marquez, who said he is not sure whether he will retire from El Tri play, blasted the actions of both Robben and Proenca.
"It was not a penalty, and I didn't touch him," Marquez said of Robben. "He hit me. The referee believed that it was my touch and whistled the penalty. Of the 10 fouls that Robben commits, five are not called and that is not 'fair play.'"
In Fortaleza's Arena Castelao, he appeared to be unlucky not to have won a penalty shortly before halftime, when Mexico defenders Marquez and Hector Moreno raced back to tackle him after he linked up with Robin van Persie in a fast break.
"If that wasn't a penalty, I don't know what is,'' Robben said. But he conceded that he had taken one dive earlier in the first half that the referee waved off.
"I have to say, in the first half -- and right away offer my excuses -- I dived. I mustn't do that. It was another stupid action,'' he told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
Mexico captain Marquez told reporters that Robben conceded he had dived in injury time too -- though Robben did not say that on Dutch TV.
"I spoke with him [Robben] after the match and he told me that it was not a penalty,'' Marquez said. "He said that the first foul was a penalty and that one was not called.''
Whatever the debate, one thing is clear -- the Netherlands is through to the quarterfinals thanks to the penalty Robben won.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.