Netherlands beats Mexico 2-1 in friendly
FREIBURG, Germany (AP) — Robin van Persie celebrated his first international match in six months by scoring two first-half goals, and an under-strength Netherlands squad beat Mexico 2-1 in a World Cup warmup match Wednesday.
Manchester United-bound forward Javier Hernandez scored after the break, but a resurgent Mexico could not force an equalizer in the final match before Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk planned to announce his final 23-man World Cup squad.
"At times, we played beautifully tonight," said Van Persie, who was playing his first match for the Netherlands since a serious ankle injury against Italy in November.
Van Marwijk left key players Wesley Sneijder of Inter Milan and Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel from Bayern Munich out of the lineup to give them more time to recover from Saturday's Champions League final. Mexico coach Javier Aguirre also was resting key players.
The Dutch who looked comfortable early on, playing their fast passing game while Mexico struggled on a rain-slicked pitch and its defense gave the Dutch forwards far too much room.
The space was a gift for Van Persie, who opened the scoring in the 17th minute when he fired in from close range after a cross from the left by Rafael van der Vaart that left Mexico's two central defenders stranded. The Arsenal striker made it 2-0 in the 41st with a sweetly struck left-foot volley past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Van Persie said the passes from Van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay, who may both struggle to start matches at the World Cup, showed the depth and quality of the Netherlands roster.
"If you look at the assists for my goals, they were world class," he said. "With such great passes, it's not too hard for me."
Afellay, fighting for a place on the final Dutch squad, threatened throughout the first half. He nearly set up Van Persie in the third minute, but defender Hector Moreno stretched to intercept the cross. A minute later, Afellay dribbled to the right of the Mexican defense but Ochoa blocked his shot.
Real Madrid midfielder Van der Vaart also came close in the eighth minute when his curling long-range shot beat Ochoa but hit the base of the post.
Mexico did not produce a dangerous shot on goal until the 58th minute, when second-half substitute Pablo Barrera unleashed a powerful right-foot drive that Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg dived to block.
Barrera and fellow substitutes Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela of Arsenal turned the match Mexico's way in the second half as the Dutch defense struggled. Dos Santos was denied in the 66th minute by a desperate block from Joris Mathijsen after Vela passed from the left, and Mexico converted its pressure in the 74th when Hernandez headed home at the far post.
Dos Santos nearly equalized a minute later but his shot was deflected wide, and Vela had the final shot of the game when he forced another save with a low left-footed shot.
Mexico has two more warmup games, against Gambia and Italy, before kicking off the World Cup on June 11 against host South Africa. The Netherlands plays Ghana and Hungary in warmups before launching its World Cup campaign June 14 against Denmark in Johannesburg.