PRETORIA - Mexico fear that a first goal
at this World Cup from Argentina's Lionel Messi in the second
round on Sunday could dash their hopes of revenge for their
defeat by the same opponents at the same stage four years ago.
Argentina, who won the 2006 meeting 2-1 after extra time,
and Mexico meet at Soccer City outside Johannesburg
looking for a place in the quarter-finals against England or
Barcelona club mates Messi and Rafael Marquez, who scored
Mexico's early opener in that match in Leipzig, come face to
face again after the Argentine came on as a substitute near the
end of normal time on his 19th birthday.
"We know it's difficult to get the ball off him, he's so
quick and can change direction or pace at any time," Marquez
said on Friday. "(Argentina) have the best player in the world."
Messi has never been on the losing side in three meetings
with Mexico and scored a superb goal in the 3-0 victory at the
2007 Copa America and another in a 4-1 win in a friendly in San
Diego two years ago.
Yet to get off the mark in South Africa although he has
created a string of chances and hit the woodwork twice, Messi's
sole World Cup goal to date was in the 6-0 rout of Serbia and
Montenegro in 2006.
Coach Diego Maradona, when comparing his impact in 1986 to
Messi's now, reeled off a list of Argentine scorers at the
Mexico finals and said "I came to the team's aid when they
needed me" suggesting Messi will do the same.
Argentina's attack have been scintillating and with Mexico
also expected to retain a three-man attack, it should be as good
an encounter as that four years ago when Hernan Crespo equalised
and Maxi Rodriguez volleyed an extra-time winner voted goal of
"Defensively, (Argentina) are not the best, they have a
great attack but their weakness is on the flanks. We must plan
the game properly to play our best," Marquez told reporters.
Jonas Gutierrez, likely to return on the right of
Argentina's defence after serving a suspension, said he was
comfortable whether he had Juan Sebastian Veron or Rodriguez
playing in front of him.
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