Dream matchup

ROB BRODIE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Upon first glance, it has all the trappings of a championship match.

But Argentina and Mexico, who've arguably shown the best form of any teams still alive in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, won't be playing for the big prize at Frank Clair Stadium tonight.

Clearly, though, it is the glamour game of a weekend's worth of quarter-finals that will slice the contenders down to an elite foursome.

"It's the luck of the draw," Mexico defender Efrain Juarez said through a translator when asked about meeting the defending champions so soon in the knockout phase. "But it's Mexico-Argentina and we've got to go out and play.

"It doesn't matter when it is."

2005 CHAMPIONS

In 2005, an Argentina squad led by Lionel Messi put the finishing touches on its record fifth U-20 crown. But the same year, the core of the current Mexican squad was scoring a major triumph of its own - blanking mighty Brazil 3-0 in the final of the U-17 World Cup in Peru.

Twelve of those Mexican players are back for more this week, obviously owning the moxie that's needed to win a championship on the biggest of stages.

"Winning the U-17 (World Cup) was a big help," said Patricio Araujo, one of that title-winning group. "It brought us lot of experience and a lot of maturity. But obviously, we have a big step ahead of us, beating Argentina to get to the semifinals."

The 'Wonder Boys,' as they became known to their adoring fans back in Mexico, are taking another major step up in class tonight. Even though Argentina is likely to be without injured starters Mauro Zarate and Damian Escudaro, the Albiceleste will still field a formidable lineup led by the likes of top scoring threat Sergio Aguero, Maxi Moralez and midfield general Ever Banega.

OFFENCE VS. DEFENCE

"Their forwards are very quick, very fast," said Mexico's Christian Bermudez. "On the other hand, we have a very strong defence and we're happy with that."

But Mexico has its share of offensive talent, too, led by budding 18-year-old star Giovanni dos Santos, who has risen rapidly through the youth ranks at European powerhouse Barcelona.

Tonight, though is about more glory for Mexico. And Carlos Vega, who led that World Cup drive of 2005, knows what it would mean for his countrymen back home.

"We want to win another world title for the personal satisfaction it would give us, and for the joy it would bring to the Mexican people," he told FIFA.com. "It would be a dream come true. I never thought I could be a (world) champion at such a young age, and now we have a chance to repeat that achievement with the U-20s.

"There aren't many teams that do that, right?"


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