If Mexico was riding the high of a 3-0 win over the USA a few nights ago, it most surely isn't anymore.
Lautaro Martinez's first-half hat trick sparked a rampant and Lionel Messi-less Argentina, which raced out to a 4-0 lead over El Tri by halftime in front of over 56,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio and saw out the win by that scoreline in their friendly Tuesday night.
The match, which pitted Mexico coach Tata Martino against his home nation and a team he used to manage, gave Mexico the opportunity to trot a largely first-choice team against an Argentina side operating without its core, Europe-based stars, but the result was anything but flattering for the de facto hosts.
Argentina capitalized on Mexico giveaways in the midfield and largely disorganized and stunted Mexico at every turn, allowing Martinez to pounce for goals in the 17th, 22nd and 39th minutes. Leandro Paredes converted a penalty kick in the 33rd minute, adding to Mexico's misery.
A series of difficult saves from veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa prevented the scoreline from really getting out of hand in the second half, one in which Mexico hardly threatened to get back into the game and remained flummoxed by Argentina's pressure. It wasn't until second-half stoppage time that Mexico registered its first shot on goal.
The development was a shocking one for Mexico, which had been perfect in 11 games under Martino and captured the Concacaf Gold Cup title this summer. It trotted out an impressive array of talent, with Raul Jimenez flanked by Hirving Lozano and Tecatito Corona to lead the attack in front of a midfield that featured Hector Herrera, Edson Alvarez and Jonathan Dos Santos. Defenders Miguel Layun, Carlos Salcedo, Nestor Araujo and Jesus Gallardo had no answers for Martinez, who beat Ochoa with ease on his three finishes and came off for Paulo Dybala at the halftime break.
Argentina, by contrast, offered an experimental lineup, one light on the brand-name starpower that has at times dazzled but often frustrated and ultimately come up short in major competitions over the last five years. Along with Messi, Argentina was missing the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Erik Lamela and others, but it didn't show on the scoresheet.