Argentina today beat Greece 2-0 in Polokwane to become the first side to win all their group games. It sets up a tantalizing second round World Cup meeting with Mexico, the side they beat at the same stage four years ago.
Argentina will be favored to overcome Mexico and advance to the quarter finals. In today's match, even when Argentine coach Diego Maradona rested seven starters, his team was once again in full command.
However, much of the team's future rests on the back of Lionel Messi.
Even though he personally failed to score, he was again outstanding for the Argentines today in setting up goals. The pint-sized striker must be wondering what he has to do to get his name on the scoresheet in South Africa.
Messi frequently unsettled the Greeks with his dribbling and rattled the bar with one rasping second half strike. It was his parried shot that fell to Martin Palermo to side foot home goal No. 2 in the 89th minute.
Twelve minutes before that, defender Martin Demichelis had put Argentina ahead when he headed home from just outside the six-yard box.
While strong, Argentina is also much different from the group that defeated Mexico four years ago. That pulsating encounter was settled in extra time by a volley from Argentine Maxi Rodriguez, considered one of the best goals of the tournament. Maradona’s likely starting side will only have three players surviving from that match, while Mexico is likely have at least six, including captain Rafael Marquez.
Mexico has a reputation for choking, but the team in this year's World Cup is much more experienced. Unlike four years ago, the majority of the Mexican side now plays in Europe’s big leagues and are no longer overawed when facing major rivals.
However, overcoming a bubbling Argentina side will not be easy, especially after Maradona's wise move to rest some of his stars.
In addition to the Messi factor, there is also the huge question mark hanging over Argentina’s defense, which at times looks comically inept.
It should be a great game, possibly the highlight of the second round.
World Cup 101:
- World Cup 101: How does the tournament work?
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup such a big deal?
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup in South Africa?
- World Cup 101: Is South Africa really prepared to host the World Cup?
- World Cup 101: Who’s favored to win it all?
What do you think makes the World Cup special?