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The Cup Running Over


June 26, 2010 5:08 PM

Argentina-Mexico Preview: 2006 Repeat?

ARGENTINA

The Good News: In a first round in which many of the favorites stumbled, Argentina cruised. And it seems to have found a formation that frees superstar Lionel Messi -- who didn't score in the first round but had a role in almost all the team's goals. Moreover, if Uruguay could dominate Mexico, shouldn't Argentina?

The Bad News:
In truth, Argentina didn't have to play anyone good in the first round. Will it be different when it has to play teams at a higher level? The midfield is weaker than it should be, thanks to the presence of the ancient Juan Sebastian Veron.

Pedigree:
Good in the long term, not so good the last few Cups. Argentina has won the World Cup twice but since 1990, it hasn't gone past the quarterfinals. Then again, that's why Maradona was brought in. In three key Argentina-Mexico meetings over the last 15 years -- at the 2006 World Cup, 2005 Confederations Cup, and 1993 Copa America -- Argentina has won all three.

Player to Watch: I
t's always Lionel Messi. Once he starts scoring, the goals may never stop.

To Win:
Trite but true: Play the Mexicans the way the Uruguayans did by constantly pressuring them on the ball because the Mexicans tend to take one too many touches. An early lead would help too, since Mexico, a young team, can press and foul when it gets behind.



rafa-marquez.jpg
Defender Rafael Marquez must shut down club teammate Lionel Messi for Mexico to prevail.




MEXICO:

The Good News: This is a young, creative team -- capable of great highs. Gio Dos Santos is a junior Messi in the making. And the team played Argentina even at the last Cup, beaten only by a screaming wonder goal by Maxi Rodriguez in extra time.

The Bad News:
The youth of the team makes it  also capable of very low lows. In the Mexican style, the team tends to dominate possession but players tend to hold the ball too long, leading to lost opportunities. The keeper isn't as good as the man who should be starting -- Guillermo Ochoa. The record against Argentina is pretty appalling -- four wins in 25 matches.

Pedigree: Mexico has now gotten out of the group five tournaments in a row but it's also never gone past the quarterfinals and it has reached that stage only twice -- both times when it hosted.

Player to Watch: Every time budding striker superstar Javier Hernandez has come on the pitch as a sub, Mexico has been a much bigger threat. Shouldn't he start?

To Win: Getting a lead would help or at least being even by halftime. Argentina is 23-1 (with the loss coming in 1930), when it has led at the half in its World Cup matches. As Zonal Marking has noted, Barca defender Rafael Marquez must shut down Barca superstar Messi, not only from scoring, but from setting up scoring opportunities and Marquez will need help from his teammates who must prevent Messi from even getting the ball near the goal. Easier said than done.


Prediction: Mexico is talented enough to give Argentina all it can handle but its youth makes it subject to lapses which a good team such as Argentina can capitalize on. If the game goes to penalty kicks, the Argentines have the slight advantage. All in all, Argentina should win, unless Mexico can get out to an early lead.




 

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