Argentina have one step in the World Cup quarter-finals, thanks to first half goals from Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain against Mexico in Johannesburg.
The goals came within seven first-half minutes, but Tevez’s didn’t come without controversy as he appeared to be offside when turning in Lionel Messi’s lob towards goal.
As expected, Juan Sebastian Veron and Jonas Gutierrez missed out as Diego Maradona switched largely back to the side which had started Argentina’s campaign rather than the rotated set-up of their last group game against Greece. With Walter Samuel injured, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Burdisso and Maxi Rodriguez retained their spots. There were three changes for Mexico, as Efrain Juarez, Adolfo Bautista and Javier Hernandez replaced Guillermo Franco, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Hector Moreno, meaning a switch to centre-back for skipper Rafael Marquez.
After a largely Argentina dominated opening, Mexico had two great efforts in no time at all. First, Carlos Salcido cut inside and unleashed a speculative effort from 35 yards out which had Sergio Romero scrambling back to flick onto the bar. Before the Albiceleste could draw breath, Giovani dos Santos made a break down the right before pulling the ball back for Jose Guardado, whose left foot shot from 20 yards swung just wide of the far post with Romero beaten.
Although the South Americans slotted straight back into their smooth passing play, it was Mexico who once again forced the next decent opening, with Bautista and Hernandez combining well before the latter fired just wide.
El Tri were not having it all their own way though, as they were left resorting to kicks rather than tackles on Lionel Messi at times as they showed an early inability as to come to terms with the diminutive attacker’s threat. The No. 10 could even be found 30 yards from his own goal battling for the ball as he looked to find space wherever he could get it.
Eventually Messi was able to have a huge influence as Argentina took a highly controversial lead. He and Carlos Tevez ran in tandem at the heart of the Mexico defence and the Manchester City forward was able to squeeze the ball through for Messi to go one on one with Oscar Perez. After the keeper was able to foil him, Messi chipped the ball towards goal before Tevez, who appeared to be a metre or so offside, flicked home a header beyond two retreating defenders.
It momentarily appeared as though the strike was to be ruled out as referee Roberto Rosetti consulted his assistant at length, but despite protests from the Mexican players the goal was allowed to stand.
Within just seven minutes the Albiceleste rubbed salt into the open wounds by adding a second. Ricardo Osorio took his eye off a simple pass at the back, and the loose ball was pounced upon by Gonzalo Higuain, who charged forward before coolly rounding Perez and slotting into the empty net.
After their endeavour in the early stages and the injustice of the first goal, Mexico might have considered themselves unfortunate, but they now had to face up to the reality of chasing two goals.
It could so easily have been three after Messi’s throw was flicked on by Higuain and Tevez went on the rampage towards the Mexico goal, but el Tri managed to block his effort and then cleared Maxi Rodriguez’s cross soon after.
A further chance was wasted as Argentina really began to turn the screw. Otamendi did superbly to reach the bye-line before crossing for Higuain, who was unable to get enough contact onto his header and glanced wide from five yards.