Africa, Sport

Argentina railroads South Korea with impressive, attack-minded display of great skills

Argentina railroads South Korea with impressive, attack-minded display of great skills

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.

Starting line-ups

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.

First half

  • 1st minute: Di Maria forces a free kick out of the South Koreans. Messi has made a few of his trademark touches already.

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.

  • 6th minute: Sergio Romero gets his first feel of the ball.
  • 7th minute: Gonzalo Higuain whips a shot from an acute angle, but it goes high.
  • 9th minute: Yellow card to Yeom Ki Hun for a tackle on Messi.
  • 10th minute: A dangerous cross by Di Maria is headed away by Lee Young Pyo.
  • 13th minute: Park Ji Sung attempts a volley from angle, but it’s a poor shot and it goes wide. Good effort, though.

Angel Di Maria is proving to be a handful, making some great runs down the left flank.

  • 15th minute: Free kick to Argentina, from the side of the penalty area. Gabriel Heinze gets a touch, but a South Korean intercepts, and it looks like an own goal! Park Choo Young is credited with the own goal.

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

  • 18th minute: South Korea almost get a quick come back with a vicious shot by Ki Sung Yong, but the shot is a fraction too high.
  • 19th minute: A Messi free kick is caught by Jung Sung Ryong. It was meant for Demichelis, but was struck a bit too hard.

Walter Samuel is hauled off, clutching his thigh. Looks like a cramp, and Burdisso is warming up.

  • 22nd minute: Samuel comes off and Nicolas Burdisso comes on.
  • 23rd minute: Carlos Tevez makes a brilliant run down the right flank, and makes a cross but it goes behind Higuain, who attempts to volley it but misses. The South Koreans are struggling to contain the squat but incredibly skilful Argentinian striker.
  • 26th minute: Cho Yong Hyong fouls Messi, and it’s a free kick for Argentina. Messi touches it for Tevez, who unleashes a bullet of a shot, but it’s just too high. That’s as close a free kick as we’ve seen in this World Cup.
  • 32nd minute: Carlos Tevez wrestles with two South Korean defenders.
  • 32nd minute: Gonzalo Higuain scores his first World Cup goal. A brilliant little flick from Maxi Rodriguez and Burdisso sets Higuain up for a shot, and he nods it in past Jung Sung Ryong’s goal. But the South Korean keeper should have done better.
  • 33rd minute: Lee Chung Yong goes into the book for a nasty tackle on Burdisso. Yellow card.
  • 34th minute: South Korea win a rare free kick in a good spot after some vigorous tackling from Messi. Park Chu Young thumps it in, but it doesn’t reach Sergio Romero’s goal.

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.

  • 39th minute: Jung Sung Ryong does brilliantly to deflect a cross, regain his feet and send a vicious shot from Di Maria over the goal posts. The South Korean keeper is under siege, there’s really no other way to describe it.

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

  • 44th minute: Messi comes agonisingly close to scoring a goal of his own as he dances past South Korean defenders, but his shot is wide.
  • 46th minute: A terrible mistake from Demichelis grants Lee Chung Yong a shot at goal and he flicks it over Romero into the goal posts.

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.

Second half

  • 45th minute: Kim Nam Il comes on for Ki Sung Yong.
  • 47th minute: An uncharacteristically weak shot from Messi goes wide.
  • 52nd minute: Di Maria flicks a shot into the penalty area, and Higuain shoots in, but Jung Sung Ryong does brilliantly to save that shot.
  • 53rd minute: Carlos Tevez forces a diving save from the South Korean keeper.
  • 54th minute: Jonas Gutierrez gets a yellow card, his second of this World Cup. He’ll miss the next match.
  • 54th minute: Yellow card to Javier Mascherano for sticking a foot out and tripping Kim Nam Il.
  • 56th minute: Corner to South Korea after the free kick takes a deflection, but the Argentine defenders clear it.
  • 57th minute: Lee Chung Yong makes a break through the aeons of space left by the Argentine defenders, but his shot is inches wide of Romero’s post.

A clever little back heel from an out-ball by Maradona. The crowd laps it up.

  • 64th minute: Free kick for Argentina.
  • 65th minute: Lee Young Pyo does well to defend a through ball that was intended for Lionel Messi.
  • 69th minute: A shot by Kim Jung Woo is deflected wide.
  • 72nd minute: Kim Nam Il gets a chance to shoot, but puts it wide.

Argentina are clearly uncomfortable with defending. They are playing on the back foot

  • 73rd minute: Gabriel Heinze gets a yellow for a completely unnecessary hand ball.
  • 74th minute: Tevez comes off and Sergio Aguero comes on. Massive bear hug for the industrious striker.
  • 75th minute: Argentina are an extremely lucky side. Messi’s shot was initially saved by Jun Sung Ryong, Messi’s shot from rebound hit the post and Higuain needed only to guide it into the goal. It would have required extraordinary skill from Higuain to miss that one.

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

  • 79th minute: The first hat-trick of the World Cup goes to Gonzalo Higuain. Messi flicks a ball out to the corner of the penalty box for Kun Aguero to set Higuain up for a header.
  • 80th minute: Lee Dong Guk comes on
  • 80th minute: Higuain goes off for Bolatti.
  • 82nd minute: Lee Dong Guk’s header is lame and poses no threat whatsoever to Sergio Romero.
  • 86th minute: Kun Aguero darts into the Korean penalty box, but is brought down by the South Korean defenders. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Messi who did the run – it was that good.
  • 90th minute: Park Ji Sung shoots, Romero is well-positioned and makes a simple save.
  • 92nd minute: Kun Aguero’s shot is inches wide of Jung Sung Ryong’s goal posts.

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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