JOHANNESBURG - Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez shouldered the burden up front for Argentina again on Sunday after Lionel Messi was the victim of what coach Diego Maradona called scandalous fouling in a 3-1 win over Mexico.
Messi has gone four matches without scoring despite playing brilliantly even when tightly marked and Maradona put the lack of goals down to Mexico's targeting of the World Player of the Year.
"It's scandalous - they aim at his right leg or his left and don't look at the ball," Maradona told reporters.
"They kick him terribly and the referee doesn't say anything about it.
Messi came agonisingly close to a second World Cup goal, and first at these finals, when he brought a diving save from Oscar Perez with a trademark left-footed shot to the top corner near the end.
The 23-year-old has had a string of near misses which might have proved costly to his team but for the class of the strikers he plays with.
Higuain's goal on Sunday took him out on top of the scorers' list with four having scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over South Korea.
The hard-working Tevez was rewarded with his first two of the finals even if his first was shrouded in controversy as he was offside when he headed in Messi's chip but his second was a brilliant 25-metre drive into the top corner.
"Diego asked me to show more weight as a forward... to think as a striker and not a midfielder," said the busy Tevez, who often dropped deep to help the midfield in earlier matches.
Messi, reminded that he had sat forlorn on the bench during Argentina's defeat on penalties by Germany in the 2006 Berlin quarter-final, said: "I hope the whole story changes. It would be nice to be able to play and score my first goal (in South Africa)."comments