Argentina set up another FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final against Germany by overcoming Mexico 3-1 at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium. Carlos Tevez emerged as the hero with a brace of goals, while Gonzalo Higuain was also on target as Diego Maradona’s Albiceleste set up a rematch against their 2006 conquerors.
The Mexicans ultimately proved no match for their clinical South American opponents, yet it all started so promisingly for Javier Aguirre’s side, with Carlos Salcido rattling the crossbar with a stunning long-range drive after just eight minutes. There was another lucky escape for Argentina just a minute later, when Andres Guardado drilled in a shot from the edge of the box that spun away from the far post just as the net looked set to bulge.
Maradona’s side were hardly lacking in attacking menace themselves, however, and Lionel Messi soon embarked on one of his trademark elusive runs before attempting a chip over Oscar Perez that the Mexico keeper judged well. Messi’s hunt for a goal at South Africa 2010 continues, but it was not long before the Barcelona talisman played a key role as another of Argentina’s star forwards opened his tournament account.
Tevez might have thought his chance had gone when Perez raced out to block bravely at his feet, but Messi was quick-witted enough to return the ball towards goal, where the Manchester City striker was waiting to head home. Breaking the deadlock enabled Argentina to take a firm grip on proceedings, and within seven minutes that hold was strengthened as Mexico reached for the self-destruct button.
Quite what Ricardo Osorio was thinking when he played a square pass to the feet of Higuain is unclear, but it was a gift the Real Madrid striker readily accepted, coolly dragging the ball around the grounded Perez before side-footing into the empty net for his fourth goal of the tournament. Even with the best part of an hour remaining, it was difficult to envisage Mexico finding a way back into this match, and Argentina could have been out of sight altogether by half-time had Higuain not headed wastefully wide with the goal at his mercy. Maradona’s men are capable of scoring at any time though, and from any situation – as Tevez proved six minutes into the second half.
The Albiceleste No11 benefited from a fortuitous break 25 yards from goal, but there was no luck involved in what followed, with Tevez lashing an unstoppable drive into the top-right-hand corner for one of the goals of the tournament. Mexico must have realised the game was up at this stage, but it was to their credit that they continued to attack with conviction, and they should have pulled a goal back on 63 minutes when Javier Hernandez headed over when it seemed easier to score.
The Manchester United-bound youngster made amends with 19 minutes remaining, however, brilliantly turning Martin Demichelis on the edge of the box before rifling a stunning left-foot shot into the roof of the Argentinian net. It would prove scant consolation for the crestfallen Mexicans, but while El Tri return home with their dreams dashed, Argentina can begin plotting revenge against some familiar foes.