Argentina 3 Mexico 1
Carlos Tévez left Johannesburg’s Soccer City last night a happy but puzzled man.
Clutching his Man of the Match award for the two goals that powered Argentina to a quarter-final clash with Germany in Cape Town on Saturday, Tévez said, “I wanted to make a mark on this World Cup and I am happy I did that. The first couple of minutes were really difficult for us. After that it got better. Today Diego told me, ‘you can play further up,’ but he also told me I can go down the field when I feel like it. I am proud to wear this shirt.”
Yet this pride was tinged with surprise when Maradona substituted him with more than 20 minutes to go. This was a few minutes after his second, quite stunning goal, a shot from outside the box that fizzed into the Mexican goal and gave Argentina an unassailable 3-0 lead.
The Manchester City player said, “I had no idea why I was substituted. I felt very bad being substituted. I could not get hold of the ball in the second half. But I was not the only one to blame.”
Maradona, who kisses every player in the tunnel before the start of the match, gave Tévez a tremendous hug as he came off and explained, “Our first half was very good. But I did not like the way we lost the ball in the second half. It is our ball. Had we kept possession we could have scored more goals.”
One of those goals, Tévez’s first in the 26th minute, was so clearly offside when he headed it in that it led to furious Mexican players surrounding the linesman. As the referee, Italy’s Roberto Rosetti, went to consult his official, Mexican players felt he might change his mind. Óscar Pérez, the Mexican goalkeeper, said, “The referee was thinking of changing his mind but then the Argentinian players came over and he did not do so. It was clearly a wrong decision.”
Feelings over the goal continued until half time when there was a melee between players and officials. Maradona alleged that Mexican officials had pulled the hair of Mario Bolatti and repeatedly abused Gabriel Heinze. However, instead of commenting on the offside goal, Maradona castigated Rosetti for not protecting Lionel Messi. “Every time Messi has the ball three players are on him and kicking his legs. What they are trying to do to Messi is a scandal.”
Not all of Maradona’s men were that eager to join in any discussion of the officials. Jonás Gutiérrez, who came on for the last 11 minutes, said, “I never comment on referees. We had a good victory. Germany will be tough. I saw a little of their match with England and they looked quick.”