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Argentina v Mexico Preview – El Diego leads from the back

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Argentina v Mexico
Round of 16, 2010 World Cup
Soccer City, Johannesburg
Sunday, 27 June 2010
1930 (BST) / 2030 (Local Time)

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Mexico impressed against France with a compact 2 – 0 win, but so did the unfancied South Africans. They have quite lively forward thinking players like Giovani Dos Santos but sadly they don’t have a lot of end product. Which is sad, because I think people have always liked Mexico, they are passionate about their football, they have hosted two of the most memory filled world cups and their professional League is getting a reputation to rival the South American institutions. Unfortunately for Javier Aguirre and co, they have Argentina in the second round… Again.

Maradona was always going to have a hard time qualifying for the competition, he isn’t a coached coach but what he is, and what he was appointed for, was to be the inspirational leader to lead the Alboceleste back to glory. When the nitty gritty was done and dusted, it was all a matter of motivating his troops for seven cup finals, as tired as that metaphor may be. They may have an utter clown in defence (Demichelis) and a right winger who plays at right back but there is not much negative about this team.

While Brazil had the famous four, Argentina have the fearsome five (Aguero, Higuain, Milito, Tevez and Palermo), a midfield with creativity, pace, energy and doggedness when they need it, and the one player who is on his own footballing planet, Lionel Messi. For a player who has not scored yet he has been possibly the player of the tournament, ripping everyone to shreds with his ability to do the seemingly impossibly perfect.

Expect long periods of Mexico playing like Greece, putting their whole team behind the ball in the hope of starting the odd counter attack. Expect long periods of Argentinian possession, and possibly an onslaught.

Argentina didn’t break a sweat in qualifying for the second round, taking the energy of the Korea, the strength of Nigeria and the obduracy of Greece in their stride. They haven’t been seriously tested yet, which is why some people still have a question mark over their ability to win the World Cup, but most pundits agree on one thing – we’re getting the Maradona we’d hoped to see, not the train-wreck we had been afraid of.

El Diego has coaxed his team to play to it’s potential, and while they’re still defensively suspect they have a fluency to their play that was missing from the qualification campaign and everything is falling in place for them. Too early? We’ll see.

Mexico have already had two tough games, beating France 2-0 and losing to Uruguay 0-1. In hindsight neither would have prepared them for Argentina, but the Mexicans would have learned a lot from their group stage battles. Their wide play will suit them well against Argentina and so will their defensive discipline, and although they lack the ability to boss Argentina through the midfield they are still a strong threat on the counter and we could see a cagey game interspersed with end-to-end football. Certainly in the second half this game should open up.

If Argentina go through, they would either reprise their 2006 quarter-final clash with Germany or revive the England-Argentina rivalry. Both teams have beaten Argentina in recent World Cups, but you wouldn’t bet against Maradona at any stage of this tournament.

Argentina v Mexico Betting Tip

Argentina are favourites but this will be a tighter game than it looks. Mexico are almost certain to score, so back a 2-1 Argentina win at 7-1. Click here to bet on this and other World Cup games.

Watch Argentina v Mexico Live Online

You can watch Argentina take on Mexico live online as well as all other World Cup matches, plus hundreds of football games from around the world. Read our live World Cup football page for more details.

Also See: Soccerlens’ 2010 World Cup Second Round Preview.

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