Argentina face Mexico in the second of today’s quarter-finals in Leipzig, with both coaches having good reason to be sanguine about their prospects.
Jose Pekerman will be confident his Argentina side can maintain the form that has seen them installed as favourites to win the tournament, while Mexico coach Ricardo La Volpe believes his side will flourish in a game they are expected to lose.
Argentina are in a confident mood after emerging from the ‘Group of Death’ without a defeat, scoring eight goals along the way and conceding none.
Pekerman expects his side to build on the momentum from the group stages and beat Mexico to progress to the last eight.
“The game against Mexico will be tough but we have a lot of ambition in this team and we want to keep going,” Pekerman said.
“The team will go into the match with the same winning attitude as before.
“It will be a good match. They will be strong opponents. But this is the World Cup so every game is difficult.”
However, Pekerman is not underestimating a Mexico side led by his fellow Argentinian.
“I have a positive image of Mexico,” said Pekerman. “They are high in the Fifa rankings and played well at the Confederations Cup last year.
“Mexico are always able to score goals. They are technically skilled and highly competitive team.
“No team can ever believe that Mexico is not a strong rival.”
Pekerman rested stars Javier Saviola and Hernan Crespo for the goalless draw with Holland, but should recall them to the starting line-up against Mexico.
That means that Carlos Tevez and Barcelona prodigy Lionel Messi will make way for them and return to the bench.
Mexico, however, only won one game, beating Iran, losing to Portugal but being held to a draw by unfancied Angola.
Coach La Volpe believes his side will prosper now that the burden of expectation has been lifted.
“We have been playing under pressure for three-and-a-half years,” said La Volpe. “On Saturday we start at zero.
“There will be no advantage for us and that could suit us.
“I’m going to play a different team against Argentina. They’re going to be much more at ease and that will help them to score goals.”
La Volpe, a member of Argentina’s 1978 World-Cup winning squad, believes the key to success is an improvement in his team‘s strike-rate.
“We have the forwards we need, we get to the opposing goalkeeper, but we must put away our chances,” La Volpe said.
“We will continue to insist on working on our finishing in practice. For the coach that is the most difficult thing to resolve.”
Mexico scored four goals and gathered just four points on their way to qualifying out of the group stages in Germany.
Mexico striker Jared Borgetti could make a surprise return after missing the last two games with a thigh injury and with Luis Perez banned, Brazilian born Zinha is expected to start in midfield.
Rafael Marquez is likely to revert back to centre half after starting in midfield against Portugal, and his presence at the back will be crucial if, as expected, Mexico are forced to spend much of the game on the defensive.
Argentina: Roberto Abbondanzieri; Fabricio Coloccini, Roberto Ayala, Gabriel Heinze, Juan Pablo Sorin; Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso, Juan Roman Riquelme; Javier Saviola, Hernan Crespo
Mexico: Oswaldo Sanchez; Mario Mendez, Rafael Marquez, Ricardo Osorio, Carlos Salcido, Gonzalo Pineda; Gerardo Torrado, Antonio Naelson “Zinha”, Pavel Pardo; Jared Borgetti, Jose Francisco Fonseca
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)