Ricardo La Volpe, their coach, has a World Cup winners medal at home, he won it as Argentina's third goalkeeper in 1978. He moved to Mexico the following year and subsequently forged a playing and coaching career in his adopted country. Although he lost his first match as national coach to his homeland, he has since forged an impressive record against them. Last summer they drew 1-1 in the Confederations Cup, Argentina winning 6-5 on penalties. Three months prior they drew 1-1 again, in a friendly in Los Angeles while Mexico beat Argentina 1-0 in a Copa America tie in Peru in 2004.
"The last few games with Mexico have all been difficult," said the Argentina defender Roberto Ayala. "We have to keep thinking just one game ahead and not lose our way." The team's coach, Jose Pekerman, was equally keen to guard against over-confidence. He said: "Mexico are always able to score goals. They are technically a very skilled and highly competitive team. Nobody can believe that Mexico will be easy." La Volpe was happy to agree. "From Saturday, we start from zero. There are no advantages. I think it will suit us."
The captain, Barcelona's Rafael Marquez, added: "We go into the second stage in good form. One of our goals was to qualify for the next phase and we achieved it." Marquez's club team-mate, Lionel Messi, is expected to start on the bench as Argentina revert, injuries permitting, to the team which thrashed Serbia & Montenegro. Messi was critical of his display against the Netherlands, but Ayala said: "While it is good Lionel can criticise himself, the pressure should be on the older players. At his age, he just has to enjoy himself."