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Argentina survive nail-biting thriller

The South Americans qualified for the quarter-finals beating testy Mexico 2-1.Schedule | Teams | Results | Photos | Games

india Updated: Jun 25, 2006 04:49 IST

Maxi Rodriguez scored an incredible volley in the 98th minute on Saturday to lead Argentina to a 2-1 extra-time win over Mexico and a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Rodriguez chested a cross-field pass from Juan Pablo Sorin and, before the ball hit the ground, hit a hard left-footed shot from the corner of the area into the far side of the net.

The two-time champion Argentines will face host Germany in the quarterfinals in Berlin on Friday. Germany beat Sweden 2-0 earlier in the day.

Rafael Marquez had put Mexico ahead in the sixth minute and Hernan Crespo equalized in the 10th, but the teams finished 90 minutes of regular time level at 1-1.

In the 90th, Argentina substitute Lionel Messi thought he had given Argentina the lead, but Pablo Aimar was ruled offside. Messi, who turned 19 on Saturday, had replaced Javier Saviola in the 84th. Marquez's goal had put Argentina behind for the first time in the tournament. Pavel Pardo sent in a free kick from the right side, which Mario Mendez headed across the goal mouth to a sliding Marquez, who knocked the ball over diving goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Argentina equalized four minutes later. Juan Roman Riquelme curled in a corner from the right, which Crespo appeared to flick into the net.

Rodriguez's winning goal put Argentina into a ball control mode with Mexico struggling to stay alive. Although the Mexicans had a few chances, they generally didn't prove enough of a threat for Argentina's defence.

Argentina lost in the 1998 quarterfinals and was knocked out in the first round four years ago. This time the team has emerged as a favourite and topped its group.

Mexico lost in the second round for the fourth straight tournament. Mexico has never reached the semifinals, and its last quarterfinal appearance was as host in 1986.

Crespo's goal settled Argentina, with the game developing a pattern. Mexico, with its defence packed heavily, worked to score on the counterattack, with Argentina probing and trying to keep possession.

Crespo had another great chance in the 23rd, chipping the ball over Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, but wide. In the 25th, Borgetti, who was starting after sitting out two games with a thigh injury, sent a shot from 20 meters (yards) that Abbondanzieri leaped high to deflect over the crossbar.

Mexico had back luck in the 38th when Pavel Pardo — the team's dead-ball specialist — went off with a right thigh injury and was replaced by Gerardo Torrado.

Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze picked up a yellow card a minute into injury time when he lost control of a pass from Abbondanzieri, and then went feet first into Francisco Fonseca. Mexico had the first clear chance in the second half, but Borgetti was stopped close in by Abbondanzieri in the 54th.

Argentina had two clear chances to score early in the second half, but Sanchez came up with key saves each time. In the 57th, he tipped Rodriguez's shot over the bar. In the 60th, he stopped Javier Saviola's point-blank shot.

Mexico had another injury blow in the 64th when Andres Guardado limped off and was replaced a few minutes later by Gonzalo Pineda. Argentina made its first substitution in the 76th, with Carlos Tevez coming in for Crespo. A minute later, Aimar replaced Esteban Cambiasso.