If Mexico are to have a hope of seeing off Argentina to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals they have to shut off the supply to dangerman Lionel Messi, says his Barcelona teammate Rafael Marquez.
Looking forward to Sunday's encounter, Marquez said: "I know him (Messi) pretty well - he is tough to play against and to stop. We have to try to close down the space in which he operates as it is difficult to get the ball off him. He is the best player in the world. He is very gifted on the ball and he can change the rhythm of a game at will.
"We have to close down the space and cut off the supply so he gets to see less of the ball," added Marquez, who four years ago gave the Mexicans an early lead in the round of 16 at the finals in Germany only to see Argentina come back and win the encounter 2-1 after extra-time.
This time, the Mexicans are hoping to avenge that loss. "We are hoping to turn in the perfect match," said 31-year-old Marquez, who hopes that the Mexican fans will get behind the side - though he fears many feel Argentina will prove a bridge too far. "There has always been this pessimism in Mexico. Sometimes we do not have this credibility, this little extra bit of belief that others can perhaps have."
We are hoping to turn in the perfect match.
But the veteran defender insists: "We believe in ourselves and we are going to go out and work to give our people something to be joyous about at the end of the day. We are changing our mentality. We are getting stronger, looking to get better. Okay, it's Argentina. So what?"
Mexico goalkeeper Oscar Perez added: "I do not have the slightest doubt we will go out there and give our all, so that this pessimism dissipates and people believe in us. We'll be looking to get the ball off them." Perez adds that fans will not see the cautious Mexico who lost their final group match somewhat lamely to Uruguay. "Against Uruguay, we had little space but this time things will be different," he vowed.
Marquez says if the Mexicans can put their rivals under pressure there could be a surprise at Soccer City. "Defensively they are not that great even if they have one of the best attacks," he said. "We will look to do as much damage as possible and take advantage of the weaknesses they have. We will look to get the ball."
Nonetheless, Argentina will start heavy favourites having won all three of their group matches, and despite doubts about their defence coming into the event they only conceded one goal - in a 4-1 win over Korea Republic. For Marquez, Mexico must shrug off their inferiority complex which last time out led to them fading after their fine start against the South Americans, while in 2002 they were superb in the group but then crashed out to the USA.
Mexico want to make history this year by reaching the quarter-finals outside of their own country for the first time, having achieved the feat on home soil in both 1970 and 1986. "Argentina are a good team, but we also play a good game and we have a lot of talent in our ranks," Marquez said confidently.