Diego Maradona’s men were commanding for most of the first half and went in 2-0 up after goals from Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain. Tevez scored an absolute peach of a third in the 52nd minute, allowing Argentina to take their foot off the pedal.
Mexico pushed hard for the last half hour but rarely looked like overturning the deficit.
Javier Hernandez got a goal back in the 71st minute when he turned a defender and crashed the ball home but it did not herald any serious fight back by the plucky Mexicans.
After an opening day draw against host nation South Africa and then a convincing win against France, Mexico had threatened to be one of the tournament’s surprise sides but they looked out of their depth against an Argentina team bolstered by changes in their shaky defence.
The Mexicans started briskly, with Carlos Salcido crashing a shot against the bar from well outside the box. But Argentina gradually asserted themselves and it was Tevez who opened the scoring in the 26th minute.
Like England’s ‘goal’ against Germany earlier in the day, it was controversial. With goalkeeper Oscar Perez on the ground, Tevez was clearly in an offside position when Messi dinked the ball forward to him to nod in.
After much deliberating between the referee and linesman the goal was ruled legitimate, much to the ire of the Mexican players.
They could have no arguments about the second goal seven minutes later, however. Ricardo Osorio made a complete hash of a back pass on
the edge of his own box, allowing Higuain to beautifully take the ball round the keeper and knock it home.
Although both sides made changes, Argentina remained in charge and it was the tireless Tevez who put the game beyond Mexico’s reach early in the second half. The Manchester City striker seized on a loose ball to hammer an unstoppable shot into the top corner for what will be a candidate for the goal of the tournament.
Mexico kept pushing forward but could not penetrate the Argentina rearguard and it took a moment of magic from teenager Hernandez to get them on the score sheet. With his back to goal, he clipped the ball around a defender and then turned to wallop it home.
It was too little and too late but it put a more respectable sheen on the score line for the Mexicans.
Argentina, meanwhile, will be delighted to be in the quarter finals with no yellow cards and no injuries.
They beat Mexico at this same stage four years ago and went on to lose to Germany in the next round. Their opponents on Friday are those same Germans.
They will be hoping that history does not repeat itself again.
World Cup 101: