Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Argentina rout Mexico to reach final

MARADONA MARK 2? A wonder goal by Lionael Messi helped Alfio Basile's side to a comfortable victory over Mexico and earned a showdown with archrivals Brazil



Argentina routed Mexico 3-0 in the Copa America on Wednesday and set up a rematch of the 2004 final against defending champion Brazil.

In fact, Sunday's match will be the 10th final between the soccer powerhouses in the 91-year history of the South American championship. Brazil's victory in a penalty shootout three years ago in Peru was their first over their archrivals in a Copa final.

"It's the last link in the chain and playing in a classic derby against Brazil is the greatest," said Argentina coach Alfio Basile. During his previous stint in charge, he led Argentina to championships in 1991, over Brazil, and 1993.

After a pressure-filled opening in Puerto Ordaz, a charging Gabriel Heinze lifted his left leg high and toed in a Juan Roman Riquelme free kick for Argentina's first goal in the 44th minute.

After half-time, Riquelme fed Lionel Messi, whose marvelous lob inside the area arched over the outstretched hands of Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez to double the lead after 61 minutes.

"It was something only the superstars do -- an extraordinary feat that moved everybody," Basile said.

The goal was the second in the tournament for the 21-year old Barcelona forward, whose sprinting hip-shaking antics have endeared him to Venezuelan fans, who in almost every match chant "Messi, Messi."

Riquelme scored his fifth goal of the tournament five minutes later from a penalty for a foul on Carlos Tevez.

"There's nothing left but to recognize the superiority of Argentina," Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez said.

Argentina travel to Maracaibo for Sunday's final against Brazil, who knocked out Uruguay 5-4 on penalties after they finished regulation time locked at 2-2 on Tuesday.

Argentina brought their European-based stars to Venezuela to attempt to claim their 15th Copa title.

Strong attacking performances by Messi, Riquelme and Tevez have allowed Argentina to score a tournament-best 16 goals while racking a perfect 5-0 record.

By contrast, Brazil have brought a younger team which rebounded from a tournament-opening defeat to Mexico.

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