Argentina had plenty of luck as soon as they ran onto the Soccer City pitch on Sunday night. Everything went their way: the luck, refereeing, even the odd Mexican defender. And yet, no one would ever believe that Messi, Tevez and co deserve anything less than the right to play an energised Germany in the World Cup quarter finals. The match ended Argentina 3, Mexico 1.
But first, it is sad, enraging and somewhat disturbing to have to write once more about the big role played by bad refereeing in just about every match of the 2010 World Cup. But report we must, because Argentina’s first goal changed the complexion of the game. Tevez was couple of metres in offside as he headed in the first goal, and as it was the case with England today, there was no subtlety that could perhaps point to the referees not being able to judge the offence resolutely.
And yes, the Argentineans are a better team, but Mexico was, because of the bad decision, forced to change its strategy; its players were so deeply annoyed by the decision, that it is possible to explain Osorio’s otherwise inexplicable mistake that handed Argentina a second goal. Being 2-0 down to Argentina is a hole that just about any team in the world would not have chance of climbing out.
And yet, Tevez’s second (and Argentina’s third) goal was a pure work of art. The ball’s speed was almost in the realm of Einsteinian physics and no goalkeeper in the world would have stopped it.
But equally brilliant was Mexico’s goal by the 19-year-old Manchester United player Hernandez, whose turn and shot were a stunning preview of the things to come soon in the Premier League.
If you were Mexican fan tonight, you may draw certain comfort from the fact that, counting real goals, the result was 1-1. Unfortunately, it is Argentina who will face Germans on 3 July in Cape Town.
Here are the reporter’s notes:
Argentina: Romero, Demichelis, Burdisso, Heinze, Di Maria, Higuain, Messi, Tevez, Mascherano, Otamendi, M Rodriguez.
Mexico: O Perez, F Rodriguez, C Salcido, R Marquez, R Osorio, G Torrado, J Hernandez, E Juarez, G dos Santos, A Guardado, A Bautista.
Man of the match
Before the match
Argentina will not field defender Samuel, who is still recovering from the injury he picked up against South Korea. Mexico starts without uninjured Vela and Argentine-born Franco.
- 5th minute: Mexico’s Salcido rattles the Romero bar with his long-range shot. Romero’s reaction is underwhelming.
- 9th minute: Bautista’s shot flies just past Romero’s post.
- 12th minute: Messi attempts a subtle chip, but Perez retreats quickly to easily stop the ball.
- 14th minute: Salcido’s powerful shot flies menacingly past Romero’s goal.
The rhythm has slowed down considerably. Mexico has managed to blunt Argentina’s attack successfully. Messi is pushed way back and is only able to get the ball, without being harassed by the Mexican mid-fielders, in the central zone.
- 25th minute Tevez scores! Messi and Tevez have combined forces to drill through the middle to see Tevez score a header from the clear offside situation. The Mexicans complain bitterly that he was offside but the goal stands.
- 29th minute: Mexican captain Rafael Marquez gets a yellow card.
The Argentine goal is but another example of the referee’s decision altering a World Cup game. Remember, this is a knockout stage and there is no way of coming back. Referee Roberto Rosetti has already given a red card to Kewell against Ghana, a highly contentious decision. The standard of refereeing at this tournament is heading further South with every match. Sad and disturbing.
- 33rd minute Higuain scores! Mexican central defender Osorio makes a terrible mistake and gives the ball to Higuain, who would not miss from such an opportunity. This Mexicans are distraught.
- 34th minute: Salcido tries his powerful shot again and Romero has to make a spectacular save.
- 37th minute: Messi’s low-flying shot from a very good position is brilliantly saved by Perez.
- 42nd minute: Higuain misses a sitter from five metres, when his header just skims the brilliant cross from Mascherano.
- 44th minute: Marquez’s good, strong effort from 35 metres is held by Romero.
Photo: Mexico’s Javier Hernandez celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against Argentina at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
- 46th minute: Hernandez just needed a touch to score, but he was a fraction of the second too slow. The ball ended in Romero’s embrace.
- 47th minute: Hernandez shoves Heinze from the back, but emerges unpunished.
A scuffle breaks out as the players leave the field.
End of the first half.
- 47th minute: Salcido’s fourth shot of the game is strong and well-hit but flies harmlessly past Romero’s post.
- 49th minute: Tevez scores again! This time it was perfectly legal: a thoroughly brilliant shot from 20 metres that Perez didn’t stand a chance of saving. Argentina now leads 3-0 and it is difficult to imagine Mexico returning into the game.
Photo: Argentina’s Carlos Tevez scores a goal past Mexico’s goalkeeper Oscar Perez during a 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 27, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray
- 60th minute: Barrera offers a glimpse into the talent he is after causing havoc on the left side but then side-nets his shot.
- 61st minute: Guardado’s long-range shot flies well but too high to trouble Romero.
- 62nd minute: Salcido’s fifth shot today is pushed by Romero into corner, out of which Hernandez heads the ball above crossbar.
- 69th minute: Maradona believes that Argentina will be the winner and replaces Tevez with veteran Veron.
- 70th minute: The Argentine defence clear the ball from the goal-line.
- 73rd minute: Hernandez scores for Mexico! He gets the ball right on the edge of the penalty box and, after a few paces, properly buries it into helpless Romero’s net. It’s now 3-1 to Argentina.
Hernandez’s goal has again ignited the game that just minutes ago appeared to be on its way to a one-way end.
- 80th minute: The Mexican corner kick causes proper chaos in the Argentine penalty box.
- 86th minute: Salcido’s sixth shot misses the goal by 15 metres or so.
- 92nd minute: Messi’s great shot is saved by Perez. Messi is still being denied his rightful place on scoring sheet.
End of the match.
By Branko Brkic
Main photo: Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona reacts during their 2010 World Cup second round soccer match against Mexico at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian