Argentina 4-1 South Korea - Lineups/Stats
World Cup Fixtures & Results
Argentina secured top spot in World Cup Group B courtesy of a 4-1 victory over South Korea in Johannesburg.
It took an unfortunate own goal from Park Chu-young to give Argentina the lead, and with the momentum, Gonzalo Higuain soon made it two. For periods of the first half, Argentina played some wonderful football and would have fully deserved their two-goal advantage at the interval, only for Martin Demichelis to make a huge error, allowing Lee Chung-yong to reduce the arrears. Largely unflustered, Argentina countered their exposed opponents late in the day, with Higuain rounding off two fluid moves.
Starting on the front foot, the Argentines cut an impressive force in the early stages of the encounter. Angel Di Maria was making good headway frequently down the left, while Lionel Messi was causing menace for the Asian outfit too. It was Di Maria who was first to arrow an effort towards goal, but his effort was well over the top. Gonzalo Higuain soon followed suit when he shot haplessly high from an acute angle.
Despite an upbeat beginning, the South Americans hadn’t really posed a massive threat on goal when they finally took the lead. A free kick was rolled short and ultimately delivered into the box, where the ball was missed by a couple of heads at the near post only to clatter off Park Chu-young and into the net.
Ki Sung-Yong responded quickly with a shot from an unlikely distance that had Sergio Romero briefly worried, but the Celtic midfielder’s effort flew a couple of feet over.
This proved a rare foray as Argentina continued to push in a forceful manner. Just before the half hour mark Carlos Tevez fizzed a fine drive marginally off target.
Higuain would ultimately be the man to double the Albiceletes’ advantage, converting with his head from six yards after Messi and Maxi Rodriguez had combined to play a corner short.
For a period the floodgates threatened to open as Jung Sung-ryong had to react sharply at his near post before watching a simply sumptuous piece of play by Messi conclude with a clipped shot that drifted by his left upright.
Immediately before the break, Martín Demichelis gifted South Korea an unexpected route back into the match, dallying in possession and allowing Lee Chung-yong to pinch the ball from his toe before advancing to clip by Romero.
Half-time gave Diego Maradona’s side the opportunity to compose themselves after the unexpected blow. Messi had a shot blocked within seconds of the restart, though better was to quickly arrive.
A wonderful move down the left on 52 minutes resulted in Di Maria picking out Higuain at the near post, but the Real Madrid forward was denied by a fine save from Jung Sung-ryong, who saved in less convincing style from Tevez only seconds later.
Park Chu-young reminded Argentina that the Koreans were very much in touch when he swept a free kick into the side-netting of Romero’s goal. Lee Chung-yong soon released a clever pass to Yeom Ki-hun, which would have become an assist had the midfielder’s effort squeezed inside the near post as opposed to brushing the side netting, fooling some fans that it had found the target.
Argentina were losing their moment, but Messi’s driven long range free kick, which was designed ideally to get a head flick, beat everyone before being claimed by the South Korean custodian, who needed to dive to his left.
Just as the Taegeuk Warriors seemed to be getting a foothold in the game, they were struck a fatal blow with quarter of an hour to play. A slick Argentine counter was led by Messi down the left, and though the Barcelona striker had his first effort kicked away by the goalkeeper and saw his follow-up from a tight angle hit the post, the ball bounced kindly for Higuain, who tapped home from close range to seal the point.
Less than five minutes later, Higuain had completed a memorable hat-trick. Again Argentina were allowed to break, and again the decisive play came down the left side. Messi chipped a deft pass to substitute Sergio Aguero in the box, and 'El Kun’ intelligently lifted his head to see a string of forwards queuing at the far post hungry for a goal. The Atletico Madrid forward obliged with a simple chip to the far post, where Higuain had the relatively easy task of tucking the ball back across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
Late in the day a weaving run from Aguero nearly resulted in a stunning goal from a tight angle, but Argentina had to settle for four goals.
Maradona’s side are now all but through, needing only Nigeria to take something from Greece later on Thursday to secure their passage into the last 16.