June 27, 2010. Johannesburg, South Africa. The setting is Soccer City Stadium (currently FNB Stadium). We are in the middle of the 2010 World Cup Round of 16 match between Argentina and Mexico; a repeat of their Round of 16 matchup from the previous World Cup. The score is tied at 0. After 25 minutes of clear Argentine superiority and overwhelming ball possession, Mexico clears the ball from its left defensive flank. The ball travels through the air and meets a charging Nicolás Burdisso, who jumps over a lazy Adolfo Bautista, wins the header, and the ball falls right into Leo Messi’s feet. “La Pulga” takes control of the ball, runs forward and sends a through ball to Carlos Tévez, who is met by Mexican keeper Óscar Pérez before he can get a foot on it. The ball falls right back in Messi’s feet, who first touches it straight ahead to Tévez (offside by 1.5 feet), who connects with his head and sends it to the back of the net.
Seven minutes later, Gerardo Torrado passes the ball to the right side where Efraín Juárez awaits. Being pressured by Tévez, Juárez first touches the ball back to RB Ricardo Osorio, who doesn’t have a player within a 10 feet radius when he receives the ball. Letting his nerves get the best of him, he tries to pull the ball with his right leg, but accidentally makes contact and pushes the ball forward in what was a rookie mistake by a seasoned veteran. The ball is sent straight to Gonzalo Higuain’s whereabouts, he takes control, easily clears keeper “Conejo” Pérez, and finishes off Mexico with a left footed strike upon an open goal.
The first question has to be, how did the refs not see the off-side position Tévez was in for the first goal? He was so clearly in front of every other Mexican on the field. How could the Italian trio of refs miss that so badly and just give the lead with a ribbon on it to a powerhouse like Argentina? Only Roberto Rosetti can answer that. As if that was bad enough, Argentina kept the pressure on Mexico, and boy did Ricardo Osorio feel it. Seldom do you see a player so nervous on the pitch in a World Cup match. He felt the pressure so much that he couldn’t even move the ball the way he intended to, even though he was wide open. He ended up assisting Higuaín for Argentina’s second goal in a matter of 7 minutes.
Unlike the previous World Cups, there is no case to be made for Mexico in this one. They simply deserved to lose. And I believe that even without the missed off-side call and the Osorio blunder, Mexico would’ve still lost the game, as they were clearly outplayed by a much more talented and hungrier Argentina squad. The first half was completely dominated by Maradona and company, just as well as the start of the second half, culminating in the rocket goal to the top left corner by “Apache” Tévez at the 52nd minute. Only then did Argentina start to take their foot off the gas to rest up and risk as little as possible for the following rounds, and that gave way for Chicharito’s goal 20 minutes later. But before that, Chicharito and every other Mexican attacker were non-existent in this one.
I honestly believe Mexico should’ve won its previous three Round of 16 World Cup matches. Had it not been for the circumstantial goals and situations, they would’ve. But they just weren’t up to the task for this one, even with the 2 goals that should never have existed. “Bofo” Bautista seemed to have trouble just moving on the pitch, while dos Santos and Hernández just couldn’t establish themselves up front. More than anything, Mexico lacked an offensive leader on the pitch. They had one on the bench by the name of Cuauhtémoc Blanco, but there was little he could do from there. Argentina stepped on them the rest of the way and Messi proved too much for the Mexican midfield and defense.
If those 2 goals hadn’t occurred and the score remained tied at 0 at the half, who knows what would’ve happened. But of course, there remains that little beam of hope where maybe Argentina would’ve begun to feel pressure from not scoring in a match where they were clear favorites. Maybe Mexico gets a counter-attack and Pablo Barrera or Chicharito take it all the way to give Mexico the lead. But one must be realistic and tell it how it is. Argentina would’ve kept the pressure high starting at Mexico’s penalty box, and eventually, the goals would´ve followed, ending in Mexico’s inevitable elimination.