First and foremost, it pits two of the tournament’s most attacking teams against one another. Second, it gives Mexico a chance to avenge their defeat by Argentina at the same stage four years ago. And third, there is the almost addictive spectacle of soccer legend and current Argentine coach, Diego Maradona.
Maradona's men have arguably been the team of the tournament so far – just as the soberly suited former star has been the fashion king of the coaches.
Argentina have turned it on in the last third of the field and their tally of seven goals is more than any other team bar Portugal (which scored all its goals against whipping boys North Korea), and Germany (which, with today's crushing 4-1 defeat over England, has now played one more game than Argentina).
Lionel Messi looks hungry, Juan Sebastian Veron is capable of carving out openings from deep, and center-forward Gonzalo Higuain is always dangerous. His strike partner Carlitos Tevez has given his customary 110 percent and if that were not enough, Diego Milito and Sergio Aguero are perhaps the two best substitutes in the tournament.
The trouble for Argentina is that their defense teeters on the verge of shambolic. If Mexico can run at them – and players like Giovanni dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Pablo Barrera have already shown they are dangerous when taking the game to their opponents – then there could be a goal fest.
Mexican captain Rafael Marquez admitted that Argentina are favorites – not surprisingly given that they have lost only four of the 25 matches between the teams – and claimed Mexico would need to play a perfect game to win.
That kind of talk might involve a bit of psychology designed to take the pressure of his teammates. Marquez also said: “Defensively they are not the greatest, they have some problems on the flanks. If we set out our attack well then we can perhaps take advantage of that weakness.”
Maradona will change his team to try and counter those weaknesses, and looks set to keep Nicolas Otamendi in at full back in place of the erratic Jonas Gutierrez. In midfield, the more robust Maxi Rodriguez looks set to replace the slower Veron.
Much of the build up to this game has focused on Rodriguez, the Liverpool midfielder who scored the goal that separated the teams in 2006. That strike, a cracking 30-yard volley in the 98th minute (extra time), was one of the best goals of the tournament and brought him to the world’s attention.
Rodriguez has been in and out of the Argentina side ever since and began this World Cup as understudy to Veron. He will welcome this chance to relive his finest hour, as well as to put one over on Javier Aguirre, the Mexican coach who was his boss at Atletico Madrid.
It won’t be easy, but Argentina have the better players and should prevail.
World Cup 101: