Argentina go into the final group game against Greece knowing they are virtually threw to the next round, after comfortable beating Nigeria and Korea Republic. The squad is full of high confidence and are playing some of the best football seen in the World cup.
Gonzalo Higuain scored a vital hat-trick to record a convincing victory over the Asian outfit. The 4-1 victory delighted the Real Madrid striker, after he promised more goals before the game at Ellis Park. “The most important thing for a striker is to have goal scoring opportunities and I had some,” he commented before the Korea game. “The rest is just a question of destiny. I’m sure the goals will come and I hope it’s against Korea Republic.”
After missing a host of chances in his first game against Nigeria, the French born striker’s delight was evident on the Argentine’s face when the ball hit the back of the net. After the own goal, Higuain headed in the second from a poorly defended free kick. He then added two in quick succession late in the second half, to complete his three-goal haul. This is the first World cup hat-trick for an Argentine since Gabriel Batistuta put three past Jamaica twelve years ago, something which the striker is delighted about, having matched the record. “I’m delighted to have matched what Bati did at that World Cup,” said the new leading goal scorer at South Africa 2010. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have hit three goals in a tournament like this.” He then went on to tell Fifa.com of his admiration for his coach and team mates.” [Diego] Maradona congratulated me and said he knew the goals would come,” added the man of the moment. “I wasn’t feeling any pressure at not having scored before, but I was looking on it as a challenge. And if we carry on like this, I reckon we can win the title. The important thing is for the team to keep growing in confidence.”
Not all credit must go to the River Plate youth product though, as Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria all stared in breaking the Korea Republic defence. The attacking four also starring Carlos Tevez, were in devastating form, after running and passing their way around the defenders. This is something that the players put down to the coach’s attacking nature, as the respect for Maradona just seems to continually flourish.
After a difficult qualifying campaign, the La Albiceleste legend still has the player’s greatest respect, although his crazy decisions can still be publicised. This is down to the coach always looking on the positive side, after a mistake from Martin Demichelis gave the Asian team a way back into the match. There were however, defensive weaknesses, as Jonas Gutierrez was made to look too weak and uncomfortable as he was played out of position. Instead of sorting out the weaknesses, El Diego looks to continue on improving their attacking prowess. “I’m very happy for us to score the goals, but we have to think of the team as a whole, and need to build on those strengths.”
Argentina now head to Polokwane on Tuesday to face Greece, with a few selection problems. Javier Mascherano is one yellow card away from a suspension in the knockout rounds, something that Maradona is keen to avoid. He is likely to be replaced by Juan Sebastien Veron, who played against Nigeria and would have against Korea Republic, if it weren’t for injury. He has fully recovered from the hamstring injury and is said to be feeling great, after training with the reserves on Friday. Jonas Gutierrez, who has been playing as a full back is to miss out through suspension. The Newcastle midfielder picked up two yellows in the two games and is likely to be replaced by Nicolas Burdisso, or even one of the home based defenders in the squad. A negative to come from the game was that Walter Samuel picked up a sore left leg. “I’m better. Fortunately it’s not a break and I could play the next game,” Samuel said. “We are following day by day with the doctor.” The Inter Milan defender is likely to be available but the coach is expected to rest the star from the back, as the South Americans can’t afford to risk any of their players, especially as they are likely to be at the top of the group by the end of the Tuesday night.