Carlos Tevez scored two goals, one controversial and the other brilliant, in a 3-1 win over Mexico that swept Argentina toward a classic World Cup quarter-final with great rivals Germany on Saturday.
Tevez was offside when he put the twice champions ahead in the 26th minute, but there was no argument with his second goal, a 25m drive into the top corner early in the second half.
Gonzalo Higuain, taking his tournament-topping tally to four, also scored after a defensive blunder as Argentina won the round-of-16 clash at Soccer City Stadium to progress to a meeting with Germany in Cape Town.
Argentina face Germany for the second successive finals, having lost to them on penalties in their 2006 quarter-final in Berlin.
They will be looking for revenge against a team they beat in the 1986 final and lost to four years later when coach Diego Maradona was their captain.
Tevez opened the scoring after his low effort was blocked by goalkeeper Oscar Perez. Lionel Messi chipped the rebound to his fellow forward, who had strayed into an offside position, and he headed the ball into the net.
The Mexicans protested the decision and Italian referee Roberto Rosetti ran over to consult his assistant, who was surrounded by irate players, before confirming the goal. There was a heated exchange between the teams’ two benches over the issue after the halftime whistle.
Seven minutes later, defender Ricardo Osorio clumsily lost control of the ball as he was bringing it out of defense and Gonzalo Higuain pounced to round Perez and put Argentina two up.
“They are two errors that changed the course of the match dramatically and drastically. We lost our shape,” Mexico coach Javier Aguirre told reporters at the post-match press conference.
Tevez put the match beyond Mexico seven minutes into the second half with a drive from 25m into the top corner of Perez’s net, a wonder goal to match Maxi Rodriguez’s winner in Argentina’s 2-1 extra-time victory over the same opponents at the same stage in 2006.
“Diego asked me to play up front more, to drop back to help defend when it was right, but to be more of a striker,” man-of-the-match Tevez said.
Tevez admitted to a moment’s irritation at being substituted midway through the second half when Maradona sent on Juan Sebastian Veron to help in a holding role in midfield.
Mexico had been equal to Argentina up to the opening goal, a shot from distance by Carlos Salcido coming back off Sergio Romero’s bar, before Andres Guardado shot just wide of the far post from the right minutes later.
With Giovani dos Santos doing some good penetrative running on both flanks, Mexico had plenty of possession in the final half-hour and created a series of openings.
The Argentine defense, forced to play deep, held out, with Gabriel Heinze twice clearing efforts off the line.
Mexico were left to rue poor finishing after one consolation goal in the 71st minute by young striker Javier Hernandez, a fine turn and shot from a tight angle on the left that beat Romero at the near post.
Mexico have been unable to breach the second-round barrier in five successive finals.