The South Americans proved to be too strong for their North American counterparts, as the Albicelestes trounced Mexico 3-1 to set up yet another Quarter-final clash with Germany in a re-match of their 2006 campaign. Carlos Tevez scored twice, while his strike partner Gonzalo Higuain took his tally to four goals in this World Cup to top the Golden Boot chart as of now. The impressive Javier Hernandez scored the consolation goal for Mexico, which once again revealed Argentina’s defensive woes.
Four years ago in Germany, the game between these two teams went into extra time only to be separated by Maxi Rodriguez’s wonder goal. Revenge was on the minds of the Mexicans today, as evident from their high flying tempers. Argentina continued with the preferred 4-3-3 formation, with the Tevez-Messi-Higuain combination upfront. Maradona persisted with the Demichelis-Burdisso recipe at the central defense ,to give Walter Samuels enough recovery time. Nicolas Otamendi got the nod over Jonas Gutierrez to start at the right back, while Gabriel Heinze was back at the left back position.
As expected, Les Albicelestes took the reigns of the possession right from the word go, and started to put pressure on the three-man Mexican defense. Mexico did not get intimated by their more illustrious counterparts; in fact, it was the North American side which got the first shot of the match on target in the eighth minute, when Salcido tried a long-range scorcher from around 40 yards out, which rebounded off Romero’s goal-bar. Minutes later, Guardado got an excellent opportunity to put Mexico ahead, but his right footer went agonizingly wide of the far post. Argentina responded a couple of minutes later with a trademark solo run from Messi, but his clever chip failed to trouble the Mexican goalkeeper. Les Albicelestes continued to attack in numbers, but were unable to find that decisive ball in their attacking third.
Messi’s hunt for an elusive World Cup goal continued, but the unrelenting series of assists never ceased to dry up for the Barcelona talisman. Eventually, Argentina took a highly controversial lead in the 26th minute of play, when Carlos Tevez combined well with Lionel Messi to tap in a simple goal-bound header over the goal-line from a Messi chip. Replays suggested that Tevez was almost a couple of yards offside ,which the referee assistant failed to spot. Drama unfolded amidst severe protests from the Mexicans, but ultimately the goal stood.
Argentina doubled their lead in the 33rd minute, when Mexican defender Ricardo Osoria pressed the self destructive button to send in a ill-timed back-pass just at the edge of the Mexican box, a gift that Higuain intercepted and gladly slotted home after rounding off goalkeeper Perez. Argentina went into the lemon break with a comfortable two goal cushion, and an ugly scuffle among the players as they were going into the tunnel suggested that more drama was yet to unfold for the night.
Six minutes into the second half, Tevez unleashed an inexorable right footer from 25 yards out to score the third goal for Argentina ,and put the game well out of reach for the Mexicans. Though it was a killer blow to their World Cup aspirations, to the credit, the El Tri refused to budge down and continued their search for a goal scoring opportunity. Their talented striker Javier Hernandez provided the Mexicans with a life line with twenty minutes to go before the final whistle, when he rounded off Martin Demichelis at the edge of the box to send the ball into the roof of Romero’s near post with a stunning left footer. In the end the strike proved to be too little and mere consolation for the El Tri army.
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match:
Carlos Tevez (Argentina)
The little dynamite was the powerpack performer of the night. Not only did he score a brace, he also worked hard to track back and win lost possessions. A dedicated, impressive and match winning performance from the Manchester City talisman.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
Roberto Rosetti (Italy): Grade B-
It was a rather forgettable night for Rosetti and his team. The Italian’s officiating team failed to spot a clear offside for Tevez’s first goal and could not distinguish between play acting and genuine fouls on no less than half a dozen occasions. The high profile Italian official can hardly be given an average rating.
ARGENTINA 3-1 MEXICO
Soccer City Stadium, Johannesberg
Argentina Line-up: Romero, Otamendi, Demichelis, Burdisso, Heinze, Maxi (Pastore 87′), Mascherano, Di Maria (Gutierrez 79′), Higuain, Messi, Tevez (Veron 69′)
Sent offs: None
Scorers: Tevez (26′, 52′), Higuain (33′)
Mexico Line-up: Perez, Rodriguez, Salcido, Marquez, Osoria, Torrado, Hernandez, Juarez, Santos, Guardado (Franco 61′), Bautista (Barrera 46′)
Caution: Marquez (28′)
Sent offs: None
Scorers: Hernandez (71′)