Park Chu-Young (og) 16, Hiiguain 33, 76, 80
KOREA REPUBLIC 1
Lee Chung-Yong 45+1
Argentina turned on the style to put themselves on the verge of qualification from Group B with a thrilling victory over Korea Republic . An own goal from Park Chu-Young and a hat-trick from Gonzalo Higuain took the game away from the North Koreans, for whom Lee Chung-Yong netted a solitary goal.
There was a touch of fortune to Argentina’s opening goal after 16 minutes. Lionel Messi curled in a freekick from the left and it hit Park Chu-Young on the knee and flew into the net from six yards. Carlos Tevez was inches away from doubling the lead in the 28th minute. Messi laid a freekick off to Tevez who lashed a 30 yard shot just over the bar. Five minutes later and it was 2-0 thanks to Higuain. Maxi Rodriguez floated a cross into the area which was flicked on by Nicolas Burdisso for Higuain to head in at the back post. It could have been three before half time. Jung Sung-Ryong pushed a cross straight to Angel Di Maria but the Korean keeper made swift amends with a fine save from the Argentine’s volley. Moments later, Messi went on a jinking run before chipping just wide from the edge of the box.
There was still time for South Korea to pull a goal back before the break. Martin Demichelis dwelled on the ball and Lee Chung-Yong stole in to lift the ball over keeper Sergio Romero. The second half started much like the first half with Argentina completely dominating. Jung did well to tip over at point blank range from Higuain after a fine team move, then he had to push away a shot after Tevez cut in from the left. Yeom Ki-Hun should have equalised after Lee Chung-Yong played him through but he only found the side netting. Higuain wrapped up the victory after 76 minutes with a simple tap in after Messi had first forced a save from Jung then put the rebound against the post before sealing his personal treble with a far post header after Messi dinked over the top for Sergio Aguero to cross first time.
Taking only a one goal advantage into the break was harsh on Argentina. Their overall display was fantastic and they were head and shoulders above Korea Republic in all areas. Not only was the Argentinean passing crisp at high tempo, their work rate was extraordinary. Seeing players of the technical ability of Messi and Tevez chasing back and pressing every time Korea had the ball was refreshing to see, both superstars working just as hard for the team as central midfield battlers like Javier Mascherano. A perfect example was Tevez chasing down a lost cause near the corner flag on the left and managing to come away with a freekick which led to the second goal.
Having dominated midfield against Greece, the South Koreans were struggling to have any influence in the first half due to the constant pressing from the Argentines. They were able to get into the game more after half time with the game opening up and could well have equalised before the hour mark, but there was always a threat that Argentina could step up a gear and take the game away from them. Huh Jung-Moo’s side will chase all day and have good technical quality, but they were up against a side with just as much energy and superior ability on the ball. What they most lack is that bit of invention that players like Messi possess. As good as players like captain Park Ji-Sung are, there is a lack of that magic ability to create something out of nothing. The Korean goal showed great alertness as Lee Chung-Yong pounced on Demichelis’ mistake but it was hard to see them scoring without a bit of help from the opposition.
With Korea Republic offering more of a contest after half time, the World Cup was finally given the game it had been waiting for. The first half was very watchable due to the all round play of Argentina, but it stepped up a notch after the break with some end-to-end football at breakneck pace. Despite the increased Korean involvement, it was still Argentina who tested the opposition keeper far more often. Jung did well to keep the score down for a long period until Higuain claimed a quick fire double to complete his hattrick. After so many games with little goalmouth incident, Argentina and South Korea proved to be the antithesis of what had come before with one of the first open games of the tournament. Perhaps Huh’s side suffered from not utilising the overused tactic of packing bodies behind the ball but the World Cup was the real winner at Korea Republic’s expense.
For all Argentina’s dominance and excellent attacking football, there is still a question mark over their defence. Jonas Gutierrez is still not a right-back, but Diego Maradona will have to make that change anyway with Gutierrez picking up a suspension for his second yellow card of the tournament. Demichelis showed a lapse in concentration for the Korean goal, something which has been a feature of his game during his club Bayern Munich’s run to the Champions League Final. Sergio Romero is still not convincing in goal and it remains to be seen how the backline stands up to a sterner test later in the competition. At least Argentina will be around to face tests in the later rounds, with anything less than a Greek win against Nigeria later today confirming their progress to the Round of 16 with a game to spare
Korea Republic – Jung Sung-Ryong, Oh Beom Seok, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Young-Pyo, Lee Jung-Soo, Park Ji-Sung, Kim Jung-Woo, Ki Sung-Yeung (Kim Nam-Il 46), Lee Chung-Yong, Yeom Ki-Hun, Park Chu-Young (Lee Dong-Gook 81)
Argentina – Romero, Samuel (Burdisso 23), Demichelis, Heinze, Gutierrez, Di Maria, Mascherano, Maxi, Higuain (Bolatti 82), Tevez (Aguero 75), Messi