Tevez in smashing form as Maradona's 'gala team' revel in goal rush

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The Independent Football

As Lionel Messi dazzles fans with his skills while waiting for his first goal of this World Cup, a marvellous complement of strikers is carrying Argentina forward.

Carlos Tevez made his scoring bow in Argentina's fourth win of the tournament when they beat Mexico 3-1 in the second round on Sunday and Gonzalo Higuain took his tally to four, making him top scorer at the finals so far.

"I needed a match like this to restate that I'm in form, that I have hunger for glory with this shirt," said Tevez after an opening goal that appeared to be offside and a sublime 30-yard drive that effectively ended Mexican hopes.

When the strikers are not scoring - and Messi, playing deep to escape tight marking, has come within a whisker at least once in each of the four matches - there have been set pieces to secure the goals.

Coach Diego Maradona put out what he called his "gala team" and he will be looking to do the same against Germany in Cape Town for Saturday's quarter-final though that may imply changes.

"We have to try to find the best team, the 'gala team' to play against Germany," he said of the nation he faced as captain in successive finals, winning in 1986 but losing four years later.

Germany and Argentina are the highest scoring teams in the tournament. The Germans took their tally to nine when they beat England 4-1 on Saturday and Argentina increased theirs to 10.

Argentina's goals-to-chances ratio, however, makes up for some deficiencies in defence where left back Gabriel Heinze twice came to the rescue clearing Mexican efforts off the line.

Argentina have controlled their matches while wobbling at the back and a question mark hangs over young goalkeeper Sergio Romero, one of four Olympic gold medal winners in the team.

"I didn't like giving the ball [to Mexico] so much in the second half when they don't have the skill we have," Maradona said at the post-match news conference.

"If we'd grabbed the ball the match would have been more tranquil and we could have increased the score."

To that end he sent on midfelder Juan Sebastian Veron to help captain Javier Mascherano in the ball-winning and holding department but still the speed of the Mexican forwards had Argentina in constant trouble if not outright danger.

Germany's young side showed against England how quickly they can break on the counter-attack and Maradona knows Argentina's midfield will therefore have to concentrate more on protecting the defence if his team are to reach the semi-finals.

The Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said his team's "boys" had the potential to finally bring joy to his success-starved compatriots after his country's all too familiar World Cup exit in the second round.

Mexico have now exited the past five World Cups at the same stage, and with their best performances coming in 1970 and 1986 when they reached the quarter-finals, the fans are desperate for to get further.

Watch this space, said Aguirre after his team's 3-1 loss to Argentina. "We have to recover, we must continue wanting. There are boys willing to fight for Mexico, it's a gift to be able to do so," Aguirre, who might leave his post as manager after just over a year in charge, told a news conference after the defeat.

"We have a great generation of young players who must be put to the best possible use, I believe in four years they will be at the top. We can look towards a bright future," the former Mexico international added.

In 2005, Mexico won the under-17 World Cup, a light at the end of tunnel for their passionate supporters who 17 years earlier suffered the pain of seeing their side expelled from the international scene by FIFA for two years for fielding over-age players for the 1988 Olympic Games qualifiers.

However Aguirre, who also coached the national team at the 2002 World Cup, warned people not to heap too much pressure on the young generation.

"You need patience. These boys have to grow up. After being expelled we've been going up and up and up," he said.

The former Atletico Madrid manager was upset he could not steer the team to greater heights, but praised the players for their commitment.

"I'm not happy and I have the impression I could not change the course of history. I'd like to thank the players for putting up with my opinions," he said.

Experienced squad members Rafael Marquez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Carlos Salcido had said before the tournament that they would retire afterwards but none were certain about their future when asked by media following the Argentina match.

Aguirre himself said he would make an announcement on his future soon.