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FOOTBALL

Rodriguez volleys a wonder winner

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Rodriguez unleashes the volley which put Argentina in the last eight.

SPECIAL REPORT

LEIPZIG, Germany -- Maxi Rodriguez volleyed home a stupendous 98th minute goal to give a relieved Argentina a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Mexico in Leipzig.

Mexico rocked them with an explosive start which produced a sixth minute goal from captain Rafael Marquez.

Argentina were level within four minutes through Jared Borgetti's own goal but they faced a long,hard struggle before Rodriguez settled the issue.

Argentina now face hosts Germany in Berlin next Friday.

Mexico were full of aggression from the outset and in the sixth minute Pavel Pardo's free-kick from the right was neatly headed on across the goalmouth by Mario Mendez.

Marquez raced in behind Gabriel Heinze to drive the ball high into the net off the outside of his right foot.

Argentina had barely had an attack but within four minutes they were level.

Juan Roma Riquelme's free-kick rebounded off the defensive wall and went for a corner.

From the kick Mexico's Borgetti beat Hernan Crespo to the ball but sent a powerful header past Oswaldo Sanchez.

The goal immediately settled Argentina after their anxious start and they should have gone in front in the 23rd minute when Esteban Cambiasso split the Mexican defense with a measured through ball to Crespo, whose lob over Sanchez went wide of the far post.

Two minutes later Borgetti almost atoned for his earlier error with a rising shot from 20 yards which was brilliantly turned over by Roberto Abbondanzieri.

The match developed into a tough, even struggle, but Argentina had a big let-off just before the interval.

Abbondanzieri's sloppy clearance put Heinze in trouble and when Jose Fonseca pounced on the ball Heinze, the last man between him and the goal, hauled him down.

The Mexicans found it hard to understand why Swiss referee Massimo Busacca merely produced a yellow card.

Clear chance

Mexico had the first clear chance in the second half, but Borgetti was stopped close in by Abbondanzieri in the 54th.

Argentina had two opportunities to score early in the second half, but Sanchez came up with key saves each time. In the 57th, he tipped Maxi Rodriguez's shot over the bar. In the 60th, he stopped Javier Saviola's point-blank shot.

Mexico had another injury blow in the 64th when Andres Guardado limped off and was replaced a few minutes later by Gonzalo Pineda.

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Marquez gives Mexico a great start with his sixth minute goal.

Argentina made their first substitution in the 76th, with Carlos Tevez coming in for Crespo. A minute later, Pablo Aimar replaced Esteban Cambiasso.

Lionel Messi, who turned 19 on Saturday, went on in the 84th for Javier Saviola and in stoppage time laid on a chance for Aimar, who netted and looked unlucky to be given offside.

After eight minutes of extra time, with the match still evenly balanced, Juan Pablo Sorin floated the ball across the penalty area and Rodriguez controlled it superbly with his chest before striking an immaculate volley high into the far corner beyond the despairing dive of Sanchez.

"That was incredible," said Rodriguez. "It was a really tough game, with Mexico making it very difficult for us but we came through in the end.

"Now we are confident we can go further and beat anyone."

Mexican captain Marquez said: "A great shot eliminated us. There is nothing to feel bad about. Things are as they are, but I'm sad we are out."

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