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Saturday, June 26, 2010
Updated: June 27, 10:11 AM ET
Mexico-Argentina preview notes


Posted by ESPN Stats & Information

Mexico versus Argentina, Sunday
Soccer City Stadium -- Johannesburg

Storylines

• It's a rematch of a round of 16 classic from the 2006 World Cup. Argentina won that game on a stunning goal in extra time by Maxi Rodriguez.

• Reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has played like the world's best in South Africa. Diego Maradona has given him freedom to roam and encouraged him to be a playmaker as well as a striker. The only thing missing for Messi is a goal. The Barcelona star celebrated his 23rd birthday June 24.

• Maradona insisted he would pick only players who would "play for the shirt." And there seems to be a bond between the coach and his players like no other at this World Cup.

• Mexico's best-ever finish at the World Cup is the quarterfinals. El Tri have reached that stage twice, in 1970 and 1986, when Mexico hosted. This would be the first time they reached the quarterfinals away from home soil.

• Mexico looks to snap round of 16 losing streak: El Tri has lost in the round of 16 the past four World Cups.

• Argentina has been seen as playing the beautiful game normally associated with Brazil, but according to winger Jonas Gutierrez the team simply wants to produce no-frills, winning football. Gutierrez said to expect simple, effective soccer. "The national team don't want to play with frills, they want to play well, use the ball well," Gutierrez said. "I think that's what Diego wants from us, not with frills or showing off, which has nothing to do with football. Good ball circulation, looking for gaps, that's what makes you play good football and I think we're on the right track."

• Mexico has 10 Europe-based players on the team, which initially created high expectations among Mexican fans. But the 1-0 loss to Uruguay put a damper on their passion. "There is always pessimism in Mexico," Rafael Marquez said. "But we have to make them believe in us by working hard and fighting to make Mexicans happy. We need to change this mentality not only in football, but other aspects of life to ensure we are better in every sense of the word. To be great, we have to set aside this mentality of being pessimistic." Marquez added that Mexico has to have a "perfect game" to beat Argentina.

Series history

• Mexico has won just four of its 25 meetings with Argentina, losing 11 and drawing 10.

What to look for

• Gonzalo Higuain: The hat trick hero of the South Korea game sat out the Greece game and will be rested and ready to go against Mexico.

• Walter Samuel injury: The Inter Milan defender has a hamstring injury and is likely to miss the game for Argentina. Nicolas Burdisso is expected to replace him.

• Mexico's rising young stars: This game provides the ultimate platform for Mexico's group of young stars Giovani dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez to make their mark.

From the research room

• Messi's shooting in his three group stage games:

Nigeria: 8 shots attempted, 4 on target, 1 blocked
South Korea: 6 shots attempted, 1 on target, 2 blocked
Greece: 5 shots attempted, 3 on target, 1 blocked

• Mexico is 1-7-2 versus South American teams at the World Cup.

• Argentina has won eight straight games overall, its best run since 1998.

• The last time Argentina conceded more than one goal in a World Cup match was in the 1998 quarterfinals against the Netherlands.