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22.06.2010 19:03

Marquez to face Messi


Rafa Marquez and Leo Messi captained their respective national teams in today’s World Cup matches, and even though Mexico lost to Uruguay, they still advance and will meet Argentina in the round of sixteen.

It was day of high drama in South Africa as the first two World Cup groups drew to a close. But although there was joy for both Marquez and Messi, the tournament ended in dismal fashion for Thierry Henry and Eric Abidal. France were beaten 2-1 by the host nation and finish bottom of their group with just one point.

Messi impresses again

Diego Maradona kept his promise. With second round qualification already as good as assured, he played a virtual reserve team against Greece this evening, but left Messi in the squad. He had said the night before that it would be a sin against football not to include him. He even awarded the Barça striker with the captain’s armband for the very first time.

It was a relatively quiet game all round, with Greece needing the points much more than the Argentinians, but finding themselves up against far superior opposition. But Messi started livening up in the last quarter of an hour, and it was his corner that Martin Demichelis knocked in from close range to put the Albiceleste in command.

Messi also found time to hit the post before, in the closing minutes, going on a dazzling run past two players only to have his shot superbly parried away by the Greek keeper. But the ball fell into the path of veteran Martin Palermo, who converted, and in doing so broke the great Maradona’s record for being the oldest man to score for Argentina at the World Cup.

Mexico lose but qualify

marquez_mexico.jpgMeanwhile, a nail-biting battle was going on between the other three teams in the group, with South Korea eventually pipping the others for the right to face Uruguay in the next round. Uruguay are there by virtue of a 1-0 win over Mexico earlier in the day. But despite defeat, the side captained by Barça’s Rafa Marquez still claimed a second place in the group thanks to the South Africa v France game ending 2-1.

Many had predicted that Uruguay and Mexico would make a pact and settle for a draw that would suit both teams, but both sides clearly preferred to go for gold and top the group and thus avoid a second round pairing with Argentina.

After the game, Marquez said “it leaves a bitter taste. We're all unhappy with this result and with today's performance. We'll have to improve now.” They will, indeed. They now face the daunting challenge of his club colleague Leo Messi and the hot favourites to win the trophy.
Marquez to face Messi
Henry and Abidal
The World Cup has ended in bitter disappointment for Thierry Henry and Eric Abidal, whose France team simply have not gelled and followed a 0-0 draw with Uruguay and 2-0 defeat to Mexico with a 2-1 loss to the hosts South Africa. The result leaves them rock bottom of Group A.

Abidal did not take part in the match. Manager Raymond Domenech explained later that the Barça defender "came into my room to tell me it was feeling empty and he did not feel ready for this match, that he was not in the mindset to play.”

Thierry Henry came on as a substitute for Cisse in the 55th minute, with his side already 2-0 down. But the entrance of the Barcelona striker did make a difference, with a marked improvement in the side in the last half hour, with Malouda grabbing a consolation goal with 20 minutes left.

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