Argentina set up a confrontation with traditional rival and World Cup holder Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup after beating Mexico 6-5 on penalties Sunday after a poor quality 1-1 tie.
The two South American powerhouses meet in tomorrow's final in Frankfurt, while the Mexicans face host Germany in a third-place playoff the same day in Leipzig. The Brazilians beat the Germans 3-2 in Nuremberg on Saturday. The last time they met Argentina, they lost 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier on June 8.
"It's going to be great to face Brazil again," said Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti. "I just hope it turns out the same way it did today."
Another Inter Milan star, Esteban Cambiasso, scored the game-clinching spot kick after Ricardo Osorio was the first to miss from the spot at 5-5 to settle a semifinal which had promised much but delivered little. During 120 minutes of action, Carlos Salcido scored in the 104th minute for Mexico and Luciano Figueroa scored in the 110th for Argentina.
"I agree it was not a great match, but my team fought very hard especially in the second half and extra time," Argentina coach Jose Pekerman said. "It was not one of the best matches, but we hope to recover and the team has the ability to give a good match in the final.
"This has been a very demanding competition. All the teams were very strong and we faced a very tough Mexican team. But later on we will look at the way the players performed."
Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe, who was born in Argentina, said the ejection late in regulation time of his Barcelona star, Rafael Marquez, was critical. Argentina's Javier Saviola had been sent off on a red card a few minutes earlier.
"It was a hard-fought game with both teams controlling the ball well," Lavolpe said. "Perhaps, the difference was in the individual skills. We had better team play. But we couldn't keep the lead. The expulsion of Marquez certainly cost us. It was very difficult to withstand Argentina at the end, and we were getting tired."
After 90 minutes of goalless action before 40,718 fans in Hanover, Mexico took the lead after Argentina's Juan Riquelme gave the ball away with a lazy pass in an attacking position.
Salcido broke down the left to take a pass from Alberto Medina and went past two defenders. His shot struck the outstretched leg of Argentina's Fabricio Coliccini and flew over goalkeeper German Lux.
Figueroa, who scored a hat trick for Argentina in a 4-2 beating of Australia in a group game, leveled five minutes later when he collected a blocked shot from Maximiliano Rodriguez and his left-foot drive squeezed between the legs of goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.
A minute from the end of normal time, Saviola became the first player to be sent off in the eight-team competition when he was red carded for kicking Gonzalo Pineda after the ball had gone. It was the 14th game of the 16-game tournament.
He was soon followed by Marquez for a second yellow and extra time was played 10 a side.
Saviola was Argentina's most effective forward with some mesmerizing dribbles through the Mexican defense and the AS Monaco forward set up a chance for Juan Sorin a minute before the halftime break. With goalkeeper Sanchez caught out of position, Sorin's lob from the left was cleared off the line by Gonzalo Pineda.
Mexico's Brazilian-born midfielder Zinha cut inside from the right and fired a left-footed drive from 18m that beat Lux but hit the post.