Day seven World Cup action round-up - Argentina find stride while Les Blues hopes in the balance
Day seven of the World Cup produced plenty of talking points over the course of the three games. Argentina look to have put an unconvincing qualifying campaign behind them this summer with Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain in blistering form, Greece took advantage of Nigerian ill discipline to record a crucial win that keeps their hopes alive while France again looked a shadow of their former self and were comfortable defeated by Mexico on Thursday night.
Park Chu-Young (og) 16. Higuain 33, 76, 80
SOUTH KOREA 1
Lee Chung-Yong 46
Diego Maradona’s Argentina made it two wins from two with a comfortable 4-1 defeat of Korea Republic in Johannesburg. Gonzalo Higuain stole the show, completing the first hat-trick of the tournament so far to help Argentina on their way to three points.
They took the lead on 16 minutes when South Korean striker Park Chu-Young deflected a Lionel Messi free kick into his own net. Higuain then doubled the lead after 33 minutes when he nodded home past goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong from close range.
Argentina were cruising towards a two goal advantage at the break before casual defending by Martin Demichelis was pounced on by Lee Chung-Yong who finished neatly to pull a goal back just seconds before the half time whistle.
Despite a spirited start to the second half from the Koreans, Argentina re-established a two goal advantage on 76 minutes when Higuain had the easiest of tap ins after Messi had struck the post.
He completed the scoring and a memorable hat-trick just four minutes later when Messi and substitute Sergio Aguero combined again for Higuain to head in his third and cap an impressive performance both individually and collectively.
Salpingidis 44, Torosidis 71
Uche 16 , Kaita sent off 33
Greece produced a spirited comeback to record a narrow 2-1 victory over Nigeria and keep alive their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.
Nigeria started the game brightly, with some neat interplay and pace on the wings causing the Greeks early problems. Their positive early play was rewarded on 16 minutes when Kalu Uche’s in-swinging free kick eluded everybody and flew past Alexander Tzorvas in the Greek goal.
The game was turned on its head when Nigerian Sani Kaita needlessly lashed out at Vasileios Torosidis and received a straight red card from referee Oscar Ruiz to hand Greece a one man advantage for the remaining 57 minutes.
Greek coach Otto Rehhagel immediately adopted a more attacking formation and it paid dividends when Dimitris Salpingidis levelled in the 44th minute when his speculative shot was deflected past Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal.
The inevitable winner came on 71 minutes when Torosidis pounced on a goalkeeping error to slot home and put the Greeks ahead. Nigeria looked to snatch a point late on but were clearly dispirited by the turn of events and Greece held on for a vital three points.
Hernandez 64, Blanco 79 (pen)
Two second half substitutes inspired Mexico to a well deserved 2-0 victory over a France side who are now on the verge of exiting at the group stages.
Mexico looked threatening early on with talented duo Carlos Vela and Giovanni Dos Santos linking well, while France seemed to lack a cutting edge and the game remained goalless at half time.
22-year-old striker Javier Hernandez made an instant impact from the bench when clever movement got him in behind the French back four before coolly rounding the goalkeeper and giving Mexico the lead with just 26 minutes left on the clock.
The victory was all but sealed on 79 minutes when Pablo Barrera produced an impressive turn of foot to skip past Patrice Evra before Eric Abidal brought him down inside the penalty area, winning Mexico a penalty. Cuauhtémoc Blanco dispatched the spot kick with ease as Mexico secured a memorable victory and left the hopes of a jagged French side hanging by the thinnest of threads.