by Gerard Houllier
I had the good fortune of watching a very interesting and entertaining match between Argentina and Mexico. It was a game featuring style and elegance between two teams that are similar and, above all, very closely-matched.
That said, Argentina had a little something extra – more thirst and desire to win plus their mental and emotional strength. The reason for that comes down to the personality of the coach and the aura he commands among his players. The Argentinians aren't just playing to win for themselves, but also for their coach. I experienced that same feeling at Liverpool, when you sense that your players go out on the pitch ready to give everything and want to succeed for themselves and for you. The personality of Diego Maradona therefore goes a long way to explaining the power of this Argentina side.
It was also evident in Mexico’s performance, and perhaps they showed Argentina too much respect. Mexico play an interesting style based on speed and positioning, but the first goal unsettled them and soon afterwards one of their defenders was guilty of a serious error. When you start a match with part of your brain telling you you’re inferior to your opponents and then on top of that you concede two quick goals, the task becomes insurmountable.
Argentina were thus able to win because of their more gifted forwards, and also because of their power and mental strength. They have players who are not just talented and experienced, but who are also hungry to prove a point and feel they have unfinished business after losing to Germany in 2006. All of which should make for a spectacular quarter-final.