Monday, 28 June 2010

Argentina Progess to Germany Showdown

Here follows a special contribution from Martyn Hindley, to who we pass our gratitude.

Argentina 3-1 Mexico

World Cup successes for Argentina have been historically characterised by the combination of controversy followed by devastating brilliance: the van der Kerkhof saga coupled with Kempes' brilliance in 78, Maradona outdoing Maradona for talking points in 86 - several alternatives before and since. In time-honoured tradition, the trend was continued against Mexico, Tévez stepping into the shoes formerly worn by his contemporary head coach with one piece of fortune outshone by a scintillating goal that booked a quarter-final place.

El Tri were holding their own - even more than that - when the flashpoint came on 25 minutes with Manchester City's Tévez in a clearly offside position when located by Lionel Messi, then nudging a header into an unguarded goal. Referee Roberto Rosetti needed some help from an assistant who seemed equally tailspun by events; the goal stood and Mexico's sense of injustice manifested itself in a half-time ruck behind the dugouts that forced Maradona into the almost uncharted waters of 'peacemaker'.

How much did the Albiceleste benefit from the timing of the Tévez goal? Unquantifiable. But it certainly made life easier for the Group B winners in Soccer City and leaves the watching audience wondering as to whether they would have the had the mental wherewithal to cope with the situation had the boot been on the other foot.

Coping with adversity is still a grey area for Argentina, as is the question of how they would withstand darting runs from midfield that have the potential to expose a defensive underbelly that may well be weak.

Mexico coach Javier Aguirre is still mired in a state of flux as to how best to work through his attacking options and although selecting Javier Hernández from the start, the service was not forthcoming for the Manchester United-bound striker with the kind of angled attacks that could be seen from Germany, Argentina's opponents in the last eight.

And thus, the game seemed virtually sealed with twelve minutes still to play before half-time when Maradona was jigging with delight for a second time, Ricardo Osorio pressured into giving up the ball to Gonzalo Higuaín, who coolly breezed aside Óscar Pérez to tap in goal number four of his finals to date.

On a day where officialdom came under the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons at the World Cup Finals, we will never know how the ratifying of Tévez's goal affected this fixture. What we do know is that the nation vanquished 3-0 by Argentina in the semi-finals of the 2007 Copa América, can have no such fury at the way that the former Corinthians craftsman repeated the scoreline in Johannesburg, smashing into the top corner with an effort of power and control.

Mexico had their moments but a fifth successive last-16 exit shows that their psychological block extends to further than just a weakening at the knees when they see Argentine blue-and-white.

That army bounds on to a date with Germany with scores to settle of its own after the 2006 penalty defeat to a team then coached by Jurgen Klinsmann. But they do so with just a slight doubt over the solidity of their backline after Hernández ended an evening of medium-scale profligacy with a consolation goal 19 minutes from time.

Highlights are again courtesy of the official FIFA website. These are subject to local restrictions. We recommend our UK readers use the BBC Website.

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