In what has largely been quite the unpredictable beginning to the 2010 World Cup, the round of 16 clash between Argentina and Mexico could’ve been easily predicted. Many felt the Argentineans would storm through their group with ease, finishing atop Group B, and they did not disappoint. Mexico was also slated to qualify second in Group A, and they did, but unexpectedly behind Uruguay, and not the disastrous France. Nonetheless, two great soccer programs will clash for the right to face either Germany or England in the quarter-finals.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to proclaim that Argentina has been by far the best side in South Africa. Both them and the Netherlands were the only teams to gain a full 9 points in the opening stages, and Argentina has yet to look flustered at this tournament. All three games they were in total control, moving the ball around brilliantly, and completely dominating the possession from their opponents. They have lived up to the overwhelming hype coming in, and look every bit the part of World Cup favorites.
The Mexicans will surely have their hands full with Argentina. They have taken a strange path to obtain that second place position in Group A, as it was widely perceived that if France faltered, it would be the Mexicans who would snatch the top of Group A. However a determined Uruguay side defeated Mexico in their last game, pitting El Tri against a fierce opponent in Argentina. Throughout their first three matches, the Mexicans have been susceptible to sluggish lapses in play, and if they take just one minute off against Argentina, it could cost them a trip to the quarter-finals.
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Argentina vs Mexico Odds:
Argentina Advances (-421)
Mexico Advances (+336)
Keys to the Game:
If Mexico wants any chance at defeating Argentina, they’ll need their potent attack to be in fine form. Yet heading into the fixture, it appears as if star striker Carlos Vela will have to at least begin on the bench. The Arsenal forward has looked dangerous throughout Mexico’s opening matches, and his absence will put added pressure on the likes of Giovanni dos Santos, and 37-year-old Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Mexico will also be keen on exacting revenge for their premature exit from the World Cup four years ago in Germany. The Mexicans lost 2-1, and players of El Tri still say the loss haunts them, while skipper Rafael Marquez has referred to that game as “a thorn in my side.” Although Mexico should be amped up about defeating the Argentines this time around, they’ll have to maintain their composure. Argentina is a lethal side on the attack, and if El Tri gives them numerous opportunities on set pieces it could be a long night for them.
Meanwhile, Argentina enters this game full of lofty expectations, and know they’ll need to take each game individually to obtain their goal of lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy. The Argentineans expect Mexico to sit back and play solid defense, while looking for opportune times to go on the counter-attack. This will force Argentina to be careful in their offensive possessions, and not to commit too many forward.
Coach Diego Maradona rested the majority of his starters for their previous match against Greece, although look for most of them to return for this match against Mexico. One change that may be made is the inclusion of Nicolas Otamendi as the right-back for this match. He would be replacing Jonas Gutierrez, who despite high hopes and fine-form entering South Africa, hasn’t played up to his potential. Another concern is central defender Walter Samuel who has been nursing a right thigh injury. If he is unable to perform, look for Nicolas Burdisso to replace him. Despite these changes along the back line for such a crucial fixture, the great Argentine depth allows these players to make a seamless transition into the starting lineup, and don’t expect a drop in overall performance.
What to Expect:
Mexican coach Javier Aguirre will have to compose some truly magnificent tactics if his team wants to remain in this game at halftime. No team has appeared to be more lethal than Argentina in this tournament, and the Mexican back-line will have their hands full with the world’s best player, Lionel Messi. Look for Messi to run all over an aging Mexican defensive group, and finally notch his first goal in South Africa.
If Mexico wants a shot at a remarkable upset, Carlos Vela must play. He is a legitimate presence up front, and him and dos Santos have formed a formidable pairing in South Africa. The Mexicans are capable of scoring some goals, but will have to be astute at the back. Aguirre must commit all of his bodies back toward the Mexican goal, to prevent an onslaught from Argentina.
The key here will be Mexican defense, and how effective Vela and dos Santos can be on the counter-attack. Although the Mexicans are a solid team, they’ll remain a mere pushover for Argentina. Forward Gonzalo Higuain is coming off a hat-trick in his previous match, and expect him to add to his already impressive goal-scoring record. Look for Argentina to get up early in this match, and never look back.
Argentina vs Mexico Prediction: Argentina 3 – Mexico 1
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