Mexico will be looking to avenge their defeat at the 2006 WC finals when they take on two-time winners Argentina on Sunday for a place in the quarterfinals.
Four years ago in Germany, the teams met at the same Round of 16 stage and a stunning extra time goal by Maxi Rodriguez sealed a 1-0 win for Argentina, who later went out to hosts Germany in the quarters. Argentina and Mexico meet again at Soccer City on Sunday and Mexican midfielder Gerardo Torrado insists his team will “play to the death” to beat their illustrious opponents, coached by Diego Maradona.
In previous encounters, Argentina have 11 wins compared to Mexico's four with ten games drawn and Javier Aguirre's Mexico side will need to pull something special out of the bag to create an upset.
Mexico's chances hinge on whether they can close off the supply to Argentinian dangerman Lionel Messi, according to his Barca teammate Rafael Marquez. “I know him (Messi) pretty well — he is tough to play against and to stop. We have to try to close down the space in which he operates as it is difficult to get the ball off him,” said Marquez.
“He is the best player in the world. He is very gifted on the ball and he can change the rhythm of a game at will.
“We have to close down the space and cut off the supply so he gets to see less of the ball.”
“We are hoping to turn in the perfect match,” added the 31-year-old Marquez, who hopes that the Mexican fans will get behind the side — though he fears many feel Argentina will prove a bridge too far.
Argentina struggled with an unconvincing qualification campaign for this World Cup, but since their arrival in South Africa have looked impressive and three wins in Group B have put them amongst the favourites for the title.
But the Mexican captain says his side will set out to claim the prized scalp of Maradona's side.
“We have an encounter ahead which we have to enjoy, but we will play to the death to win it,” he said. “In this game, we have to continue advancing and to follow our dream so we will not lack attitude. We must play aggressively and look to put their keeper under pressure.”
Mexico are hopeful 21-year-old striker Carlos Vela will be fit as he returns to training after a hamstring injury having missed the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay in their last game.
Argentina's attacking prowess is without question, especially as Gonzalo Higuain scored a hattrick against South Korea, but they are more susceptible at the back. The Mexicans will need all the front-line firepower they can get and Vela returned to training with the squad on Thursday.
While Argentina have swept Nigeria, South Korea and Greece aside to make the last 16, their talisman Lionel Messi is going through something of a goal-drought though the Barcelona ace is creating chances.
“I'm not worried about it —obviously I'd prefer them to go in, but it's not a big deal,” he said.