Figueroa hero for Argentina
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Argentina are in the final of the Confederations Cup after beating Mexico.Luciano Figueroa netted an extra-time equaliser for Argentina as they eventually booked a final place by beating Mexico on penalties after a 1-1 stalemate.
The former Birmingham City flop netted a leveller after Mexico's Carlos Salcido goal had looked to have secured his country a final meeting with Brazil.
After Saturday's thriller that saw Brazil edge past Germany 3-2, Sunday's encounter provided a polar opposite as the defences of both Mexico and Argentina reigned supreme.
The early exchanges had been bright and hinted little of the stalemate that would pass as Jaime Lozano forced a decent stop from Argentina goalkeeper German Lux in only the third minute from Jared Borgetti's clever hold-up play.
From the resulting corner Barcelona's Rafael Marquez headed narrowly over the top of the Argentine bar.
Whilst Javier Saviola showed occasional glimpses of class, the first period was bereft of any real spectacle and it was a full 25-minutes in before Mexico created another chance as Lux again parried - this time from Antonio Naelson's drive.
On the stroke of half time the crowd rose to its feet for the first time but although Juan Pablo Sorin's dinked finish beat Oswaldo Sanchez, it did not pass Gonzalo Pineda on the Mexico line.
Into the second period and Figueroa headed onto the roof of the Mexico goal before Juan Roman Riquelme struck a trademark free-kick narrowly over.
Mexico's best chance came from their classiest moment when midfield man Zinho took possession on the edge of the Argentine box and bent a beautiful effort past Lux but not the post.
At the other end Fabricio Coloccini forced an excellent stop from Sanchez before nearly decapitating Ramon Morales with a forearm smash that brought only a yellow card.
Both sides forced occasional consternation for the opposition's backline but the real drama came in the final few minutes when first Saviola was shown a straight red for a petulant kick at Pineda and then Mexico's Marquez evened up the numbers after a second yellow card following a lunge on substitute Pablo Aimar.
The first period of extra-time failed to yield any incident of note before Salcido's unlikely contribution. Receiving the ball on the Argentine left he first skipped past Javier Zanetti and then Gabriel Heinze before his shot from the angle deflected off Coloccini and beyond Lux.
With Mexico's goal came Argentina pressure and the remainder of extra-time was all about Figueroa. First, he somehow contrived to push the ball into the arms of Sanchez with the goal gaping from just a yard and then came his leveller - and fourth goal of an impressive tournament.
The ball scrambled around the Mexican goal and when it arrived at the feet of Figueroa - this time he dispatched through the legs of Sanchez.
Penalties always looked likely thereafter and in the resulting shoot-out, both sides dispatched each of their five kicks before in sudden death Mexico's Ricardo Osorio allowed Esteban Cambiasso to become the game's hero when his spot-kick was saved by Lux.