Talisman Tocalli seeks repeat
© Foto-net

Footballers and coaches alike are known for their superstitions, engaging in the quirkiest of rituals to get the footballing gods on their side. Whether it is stepping onto the pitch right foot first, getting the subs to sit in the same position on the bench or wearing the same underwear game after game, virtually anything goes when there are three points or a cup tie at stake.

As they limber up for what promises to be a sensational showdown with Mexico however, Argentina can count on one lucky charm on their bench, coach Hugo Tocalli. While he may not have landed a world title just yet, as head coach the 58-year-old tactician has never failed to guide his teams past the quarter-final stages.

His first semi-final appearance came at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2001 when he guided a side containing the likes of Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta to the last four courtesy of a 2-1 defeat of Mali. At Finland 2003 he repeated the trick when he masterminded a comprehensive 4-0 win over Sunday's opponents Mexico, before completing the hat-trick of quarter-final triumphs at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the UAE that year with a narrow 2-1 triumph over the USA.

If the experienced strategist is to make it four out of four however, he will have to do it the hard way, by knocking out fellow title favourites Mexico.

Size is not everything
Tocalli's hopes of seeing off the Mexicans depend largely on his side's ability to repeat last Thursday's solid showing against the Poles and the all-round flair of the tandem formed by Maximiliano Moralez and Sergio El Kun Aguero.

An undemonstrative, but hugely effective performer, the pint-sized Racing Club midfielder has been one of the most creative players on show in the land of the maple leaf, moving coach Tocalli to describe his performances to date as "brilliant".

Nevertheless, the unassuming Moralez is keen to deflect his coach's praise. "I don't really like talking about individuals. To me it's the team as a whole that counts. Mexico are a good side. They wouldn't have got this far if they weren't, but I think they ought to be a little concerned as well about what we could do. It's a big ask, of course, but it's not impossible by any means. This team doesn't know the meaning of the word impossible."

The other wizard, Tocalli, will be looking to to keep his perfect quarter-final record intact is Aguero. The Atletico Madrid striker is the fifth Albiceleste to reach the five-goal mark in a FIFA U-20 World Cup and the inspirational number ten will be keen to add to that tally against the Mexicans.

"It's going to be tough for sure, but there's no need to get nervous about it," said the man himself. "Football's the greatest sport there is and we should enjoy it. I might have got a couple of nice goals against Poland but I'll be hoping to produce a bit extra against Mexico," he added.

"Aguero is a unique player," commented Tocalli, unstinting in his praise for the freescoring forward. "He's a genius who can do the most unpredictable things. It doesn't bother me that people say we depend on him a lot, but what I do know is that he can't win a World Cup on his own. What matters here is the team, and if we can show the same attitude we did against Poland we can get through." Given Argentina's form so far and Tocalli's magic touch on the tiller, few would bet against that.