And yet, as brilliant as Argentina were this afternoon, it is undeniable that luck played a big part in their 41 thrashing of feisty South Korea at Johannesburg Soccer City. But then again, luck (mostly) favours the brave.
First things first: Argentina have handed a football lesson to the Spaniards. Having all of the possession and doing diddly-squat with it isn’t going to get you very far. The only statistic that matters at the end of the day is the number of goals scored. Argentina had no problems with that this afternoon.
Diego Maradona may be, er, a difficult man, but he’s always had luck on his side (the Hand of God rests on him, if you will) and it seems that luck has rubbed off onto his team, as was demonstrated by Argentina’s first goal. What was a pedestrian, sub-par cross by Lionel Messi into the South Korean penalty box, took a wicked deflection off a defender’s foot and went inside for an own goal. But that cross came from a free kick that had been forced out of the Korean defenders, who seemed to have little idea how to contain the Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez and Messi, who played the football we’ve come to expect of him, making those insanely quick, juddering runs of his, and earning free kick after free kick from the scrambling Korean defence.
Photo: Argentina’s (L-R) Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Burdisso and Javier Mascherano try to head the ball as South Korea’s Lee Jung-soo tries to defend during their 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 17, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray
Luck had little to do with Gonzalo Higuian’s first goal of the game in the 32nd minute when he did well to slot a cross past Jun Sun Ryong, who could have perhaps done better in that situation.
Despite the emphatic manner of Argentina’s second win of the World Cup, not all is well with their team. The problem seems to be their proficiency in attack, which causes lethargy in their back line. Just before half time, Lee Chung Yong pounced on Demichelis, who was taking forever to clear a ball, and scored. The other problem with Argentina’s back line is their running defence – they seem to have no idea what to do against counter-attacks. You could drive an eighteen-wheel freighter through the gaps their centre backs left as they back-tracked against South Korea’s swift advances. This will be a massive problem for Argentina, especially in the next levels of the tournament, when they come up against teams who can plan properly and punish their sloppy defence.
There are no such issues with Argentina’s attack, though. Maradona opted to play with six forwards in this match, a strategy which worked as wave after wave of Argentine attack swamped the South Koreans. Luck was on the South American’s side again in the 75th minute as a shot by Lionel Messi took a deflection off the post and landed at Gonzalo Higuian’s feet right in front of an empty post. Replay showed that Higuain had been offside, but that will be little consolation to the South Koreans.
Even though Messi played a brilliant game, and was denied a goal on several occasions by Jun Sung Ryong, praise must go to Higuain for an excellent performance and the first hat-trick of the World Cup.
Greece will be very, very worried about their match next Tuesday.
Here are this reporter’s notes.
Argentina: Sergio Romero; Martin Demichelis, Walter Samuel, Gabriel Heinze, Jonas Gutierrez; Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain.
South Korea: Jung Sung-Ryong; Oh Beom-seok, Lee Young-pyo, Cho Yong-hyung, Lee Jung-soo, Kim Jung-woo, Ki Sung-yong, Park Ji-sung, Lee Chung-yong, Park Chu-young, Yeom Ki-hun.
Man of the match
It has to be Higuain.
Before the game
Just one change to the Argentine side that defeated Nigeria. Maxi Rodriguez comes on for Juan Sebastian Veron, who is supposedly injured.
South Korea have made a change of their own: Oh Beom-seok comes in for Cha Du-ri at the right-back position.
Diego Maradona, Argentina’s tempestuous coach, has not been very contrite in the build-up to this game. He may be one of the few people in this tournament whose arrogance is justifiable. But never say never, as the Spanish side discovered yesterday.
Huh Jung Moo, the South Korean coach, and Maradona have a bit of history. Huh committed what was known as the Kung-Fu tackle on Maradona in the 1986 World Cup finals, something the Argentine coach says he’s never forgotten.
Angel Di Maria is proving to be a handful, making some great runs down the left flank.
Photo: South Korea’s Park Chu-young (4th L) scores an own goal during the 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against Argentina at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Walter Samuel is hauled off, clutching his thigh. Looks like a cramp, and Burdisso is warming up.
It might be all over for South Korea here. Two goals and two yellow cards down. They simply have no solutions to counter the attacks of Tevez, Di Maria and Messi.
Photo: South Korea’s Park Chu-young (L) kicks the ball while watched by Argentina’s Martin Demichelis during a Group B match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
The end of first the half. Diego Maradona will have a thing or two to say about that mistake from the Argentine defender.
Well, that’s Argentina’s weakness right there. They’re so used to attacking, they always tend to lose concentration in defence.
A clever little back heel from an out-ball by Maradona. The crowd laps it up.
Argentina are clearly uncomfortable with defending. They are playing on the back foot
The replay shows that Higuain was offside. Lucky side, like we said.
Photo: Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain (3rd R) scores his hat-trick and the team’s fourth goal during the 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against South Korea at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
End of the game.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Main photo: Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi hug after their 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against South Korea at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 17, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray
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