Maradona's tactical dilemma
World Cup 2010: Johannesburg
Argentina coach Diego Maradona suggested after his team's 1-0 friendly victory over Germany on 3 March that it had felt like a World Cup game.
His team's 3-1 win over Mexico at Soccer City on Sunday has ensured that the Albiceleste will meet Germany for real in a quarter-final tie at 1500 BST in Cape Town on Saturday.
However, between now and the Cape Town showdown, Argentina's charismatic leader has some serious thinking to do.
Maradona has sent his team out in a 4-3-1-2 formation in South Africa, with Lionel Messi playing behind two strikers. Argentina have played with vim and panache, and are now regarded as one of the favourites to win the competition.
They have now won their last nine games but their form was less convincing back in March.
The victory in Munich was based on a more defensive 4-4-2 system that saw the team set up with two banks of four and Messi play alongside Gonzalo Higuain as Argentina attempted to hit their opponents on the counter attack.
The question is, does Maradona revert to the formation that helped his side to a much-needed victory at a time when his ability as a coach remained under intense scrutiny - or does he stick with the attacking principles that have seen his team win all four of their games at the World Cup?
Messi struggled to transfer his club form at Barcelona to the international stage as Maradona's team laboured through qualifying and the 23-year-old even came in for criticism from Argentine fans and in their media.
But he has clearly relished the liberated role he has been given at the World Cup, while Maradona has used every opportunity to angrily protest at what he believes to be the rough treatment dished out to his most creative player.
"When he gets the ball everybody tries to kick him," said the Argentine boss. "What is happening to him is a scandal."
Messi played behind Higuain and Carlos Tevez on Sunday, while Champions League winner Diego Milito and Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero had to be content with a place on the bench.
Maxi Rodriguez and Angel Di Maria provided width as part of a midfield trio that had Javier Mascherano in the centre charged with breaking up opposition play.
Watching the Argentine system against Mexico it was clear that the front three have very little defensive responsibilities - leaving seven outfield players to counteract the opposition threat, whereas the previous system had eight.
And it might just be that against a youthful and confident German side that demolished England 4-1 on Sunday, Maradona will adopt a more cautious approach.
"Germany are a top team but we will field the right players in order to beat them," added the Argentine boss, who in yet another lively post-match news conference refused to answer one question that he described as stupid and told another journalist to hurry up and get to the point.
"But let me just enjoy this victory for a while, you can write whatever you want about them and I will start to think about Germany on Monday."
When he does study the German side he might consider the threat posed by Mesut Ozil, who had another superb game against England in an attacking midfield role.
Germany struck twice against an admittedly woeful opposition, savaging England with blistering counter attacks.
Joachim Loew's team have the tools to provide a stern examination of the Argentine defence, which many see as a potential weak link in an otherwise gifted side.
Certainly, there were signs on Sunday that there are areas to exploit in the Argentina defence.
Mexico skipper Rafael Marquez reckoned that his team were intent on removing the thorn that had been stuck in their side since their defeat to Argentina at the 2006 World Cup.
And until Carlos Tevez struck the opener after 26 minutes despite being yards offside when the ball was played to him, Javier Aguirre's side had been true to Gerardo Torrado's pledge to take good care of the football.
Carlos Salcido hit the crossbar with a long-range effort and the advanced trio of Giovani Dos Santos, Adolfo Bautista and Manchester United-bound striker Javier Hernandez found plenty of space to exploit in the final third.
Argentina's Nicolas Burdisso had a decent game deputising for the injured Walter Samuel, but I am far from convinced that Martin Demichelis is a top-class central defender.
All of the back line that started against Mexico - Gabriel Heinze, Demichelis, Burdisso and Nicolas Otamendi - are arguably most effective in the middle. Clemente Rodriguez is the only specialist full-back in the squad and Maradona seems content to restrict his defenders to just that - defending.
Maradona played Jonas Gutierrez as a right-back in Argentina's opening two games but the Newcastle winger was suspended against Greece and started from the bench on Sunday.
I spoke to Gutierrez, a second-half substitute, after the game and he told me the squad had seen Germany's victory over England and expected a difficult tie.
Maradona's Argentina left for South Africa against a backdrop of modest expectations, much like Carlos Bilardo's side did before their successful 1986 campaign in Mexico.
Bilardo had a group of players of a decent ability but sculpted a defensively solid side that relied on the genius of Maradona.
The current coach has a lot more options at his disposal but must find the right balance between defence and attack if his team are to avenge their quarter-final defeat against Germany at the 2006 World Cup.