Glory for Argentina

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Argentina's path to more glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup couldn't be more clear now. Or more familiar, for that matter.

The defending champions took a giant step toward a record sixth U-20 World Cup crown last night, edging Mexico 1-0 before a raucous sellout crowd of 26,500 at Frank Clair Stadium.

Next up for the Albiceleste: Old South American rival Chile in a semi-final Thursday night in Toronto. And there could be a delicious bit of symmetry to follow after that if Argentina proceeds to Sunday's championship match at the National Soccer Stadium.

The opponent then for Argentina could well be the Czech Republic, which tangles with Austria in a surprise semi-final matchup Wednesday in Edmonton. The Argentines and Czechs played a scoreless draw back on June 30 in Ottawa in their first match of the tournament.

It is fair to suggest, though, that Argentina might have passed its largest remaining test against a Mexico side which sported a perfect 4-0 record in this World Cup heading into last night. And it came up with what coach Hugo Tocalli called its finest effort yet in this event.

'TEAM LOOKS COMPLETE'

"(Last night), the team showed something different," Tocalli said through a translator. "When Mexico tried to equalize, the players showed the attitude they needed to keep it 1-0. That's something they hadn't showed before (in the tournament). Now the team looks more complete."

Ironically, though, the glamour matchup of the quarter-finals proved to be the only one not to be decided by extra time or penalties. Despite the dearth of goals, the talent-rich Argentines and Mexicans put on a sumptuous display of footballing for the fans in the Frank Clair finale of the U-20 World Cup.

The two star No. 10s up front, Argentina magic man Sergio Aguero and the precocious Giovanni Dos Santos of Mexico, had a hand in several chances early in the match. Mexico's Carlos Vega nearly broke the scoreless deadlock, ripping a hard shot off the post in the 29th minute.

But then Argentina benefited from a huge piece of good fortune less than a minute before the half. Off a turnover, Angel Di Maria sent Maxi Moralez on a run into the penalty area, and the 5-foot-3 sparkplug fired a hard shot that caught the back of defender Julio Cesar Dominguez' leg and ricocheted in the opposite direction of diving Mexican keeper Alfonso Blanco for the game's only goal.

From there, Argentina keeper Sergio Romero kept the Mexicans at bay through the second half, ending El Tricolor's title dreams.

"The team gave me everything it had," said Mexico coach Jesus Ramirez. "It's very difficult to lose this way, but I'm very proud of my players."

And now, given the carnage left behind by a rash of upsets on the other side of the draw, it appears to be Argentina's tournament to win. And nobody, as history shows at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, knows the route to the winners' circle better than them.

"When we left Argentina, we had two goals," said Tocalli. "To win the group and to play seven games. Now, we've reached that goal. I'm very happy."


Videos

Photos