Mexico 0 – 3 Argentina
Mexico’s defense crumbles against Riquelme and Messi.
Perhaps it wasn’t the great game everybody expected, but don’t blame Messi for not trying. The Barcelona striker played his best game of the tournament, and overshadowed another brilliant performance by Riquelme.
Each half had its own story.
The first 45 minutes were Mexico’s best. They played well, attacking often and with many players, having some good chances to score. Most notable was Andres Guardado’s horrible shot after a great play to get a wide open look at Abbondanzieri. The new Deportivo signing chose to shoot with his left foot when the angle called for a shot with the right and Andres missed what was to be the best opportunity for his country. It could have given Mexico the lead and changed the game but it would not happen. Argentina had some chances of their own but Tevez wasn’t sharp tonight.
It took a cheeky trick play out of a set piece to get Argentina on top. Riquelme lined up to take a free kick on goal but he instead took an indirect one, lobbing a picture perfect pass to the far post where Heinze came in with a karate chop kick to put in the 1-0. It was a perfect call since the Mexicans were out of position to defend Heinze who usually poses no threat in that position. With the momentum now clearly shifted to Argentina’s side, the teams went to the locker rooms for halftime.
When they emerged in the second half, Mexico was doomed. Hugo Sanchez subbed out a lifeless Cacho and his midfielder Torrado, and while benching Cacho was the right move, without Torrado their midfield collapsed. They looked like the Mexico in the Gold Cup final against the USA, confused and beaten. The defense was particularly horrible in the second half leaving wide open spaces everywhere. That was the perfect situation for Messi who’s dribbling thrives in those wide spaces. Thats how Argentina’s second goal came to play, a wide open Messi runs in and lobs the ball over a badly positioned Oswaldo Sanchez for a great goal, a golazo!
Messi after scoring a brilliant goal
From that point on it was all Argentina. Mexico resorted to give long balls to Nery Castillo who was very quiet all alone up front. He was very well defended by Heinze – who really had a sensational game – and Ayala. Even so he still managed to come close to scoring scraping the crossbar off a shot. The rest of the Mexicans did more fouling than playing and it was a cheap foul by the captain Rafa Marquez that gave Riquelme his fifth goal of the tournament off a penalty kick.
Argentina confirms their date with Brazil in the classic duel of South American titans.
Mexico and Uruguay will meet the day before as the teams that came close but not quite enough.
Lionel Messi. F, Argentina
Riquelme was great but Messi was better. Mexico’s defense had gaps and that is where Messi plays his best.
The Ugly Duckling
Rafael Marquez. D, Mexico
Extremely sloppy play from Messi’s teammate at Barcelona. Was slow and out of place a lot of the time and resorted to fouling including the penalty that sealed the game for Argentina.