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10.07.2007 17:42

Márquez and Messi vital

Jesús Carrillo

Both Rafa Márquez and Leo Messi are proving essential in their respective Copa America teams in Venezuela, with both sides comfortably through to the semi final stage.

The Mexican captain has started all four games for Hugo Sanchez’s team, playing a total of 270 minutes. Mexico have the best defensive record of the tournament, having conceded just one goal.

Up and down

Márquez is not only working hard at the back. He also been pressing forward into the middle of the park and laying on assists for his team mates up front. The ‘Kaiser of Michoacán' as they call him is proving to be the veritable linkman in an extremely effective Mexican line-up.

Messi making an impact

Like Márquez, Leo Messi is delighting in the Copa América experience. In his first appearance in the tournament, he has scored one goal, laid on another, caused a penalty and played a central role in four straight wins for Alfio Basile’s team.

Just one full game

Messi did not play the 90 minutes of any of the group matches. In the first two games he was replaced by Carlos Tévez in the 79th and 82nd minutes respectively, and only came on for the last 23 minutes of his side’s game against Paraguay.
But Messi was on the pitch for the whole of the quarter final against Peru, and scored a goal in the process.

Face to face in the semis

Now Mexico and Argentina clash with a place in the final at stake. The Argentinians have a very strong squad out in Venezuela, and will be the favourites to go through to meet either Brazil or Uruguay in Caracas. But Mexico have looked so solid in this tournament that it is impossible to write them off. Interestingly, the highest scoring side in the tournament is Argentina with 14 goals, but Mexico’s defence has only been beaten once in four games.

Márquez and Messi vital
Repeat of 2006 World Cup
It is exactly a year since these two nations last met, in the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. On that occasion Argentina qualified on the back of a thrilling 2-1 victory.

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