BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

The popular thinking which tells us that two wins in a group stage will see a team through to the next round – almost correct although it is possible for three nations to end up with six points in a group where one team loses all matches, no team wins all and no team draws – and today on the sixth game of the World Cup one of South Korean and Argentina can reach that first target.

Argentina did not impress in the first game – a laboured 1-0 win over Nigeria – while South Korea looked talented against the Greeks who offered little resistance once the Asians scored.

South Korea are – perhaps understandability – less keen to forego the defensive stability which got them success in the first game as Uruguay were last night and dropping attacking full back Cha Du-Ri for the more defensive minded Oh Beom-Seok says much about their aims. Contain, frustrate and perhaps sneak something.

The Argentine side start with intention with left winger Ángel Di María whipping and early ball in and Carlos Tévez driving forward. Di María causes Beom-Seok enough problems that the right back brings him down and from the resultant free kick Lionel Messi delivers a dangerous ball which after beating one Argentine striker is turned into his own goal by Korea forward Park Chu-Young.

The anticipation of Messi performing some act of magic with every touch is high but it is the Barcelona man’s meat and potatoes – a well delivered cross – that causes the damage. Debate surrounded Maicon goal – Brazil’s first against North Korea – along the lines of if he “meant it” two which he – and Messi – would no doubt retort that he meant to put a dangerous ball into a dangerous area and that goals resulted from both are a reflection of that. Spain – so often playing around but never into Switzerland – would have done well to learn that lesson.

Walter Samuel limps off injured. It is a blow for Argentina who bring on a right back in the form of Nicolás Burdisso to replace leaving Newcastle United left winger Jonás Gutiérrez at full back and the newly on player in the middle. Gutiérrez’s Newcastle team mate and centreback Fabricio Coloccini was cut from the squad surprisingly by manager Maradona when he took his squad from thirty to twenty-three.

Maradona stands at the side of the field waving imaginary yellow cards whenever one of his players goes down. This week he has told Platini that he is arrogant because he is French. No one calls on the Argentina manager to apologise for this base racism.

Tévez looks increasingly threatening dropping between the lines of Korean players and picking up the ball before his movement is closed down. He makes space where previously it seemed there was none and does so without the need of the free role that Messi is given. Tévez chased down a lost ball and wins a free kick continuing an impressive first half which will no doubt be alerting managers the world over – if only they could discover who owned him to buy him.

The free kick is slowly worked to Maxi Rodríguez by Messi who crosses simply to the back post where Gonzalo Higuaín is there is head simply past goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong who could have done better. It is not that the game against South Korea is easier for Argentina than it was for Greeks just that the South Americans are playing without the first game fear and the added enterprise is enough to breakdown the resistance.

Korea are chasing shadows and Messi and Tévez start to combine well possessed of an increasing understanding that sees the two pass the ball between each other for forty yards before Messi dinks a chip that fades wide. The game is one sided, and there is only one winner.

Chu-Young rises above Gabriel Heinze as the first half ebbs away and flicks a ball on which Martín Demichelis should deal with but does not and Lee Chung-Yong is left with the ball in the box and a flick of the foot puts the ball past Sergio Romero and into the net for an unlikely goal.

The second half shows Argentina still ebullient in possesion with Javier Mascherano feeding Messi who chests back into the path of Higuaín and then back to Messi who hits his a weak shot wide. Di María feeds Higuaín later and Sung-Ryong saved athletically, a couple of minutes later Tévez warms his palms.

Still the Koreas look to make the best of counter attacks with Chu-Young hitting a free kick wide – the free kicks are improving in this World Cup – and when Yeom Ki-Hun plays a glorious one two with Lee Chung-Yong but misses the target with only Romero to beat. Time seems to stop in this moment. The Koreans recognise the chance has come and gone, Argentina that they have given such a chance away.

Such chances need to be taken if a performance of resilience is to get results and the longer the game goes on the – the more Korea try come forward – the more Argentina find space and Messi uses it sliding out of the midfield to attack down the left and hitting a low shot which is saved but the rebound falls to the tricky Messi and who rams it against the post seeing the ball make its way across the box and to the waiting – and offside – Higuaín who gobbles up the chance for the third.

Higuaín gets a hat-trick when Messi winds his way forward again down the left lobbing the ball to the striker who heads in. The first three of the World Cup Higuaín – anonymous in the opening game – is tournament top scorer.

With ten minutes to go it is hard to imagine a more emphatic win but the mind spins back to point early in the second half when Yeom Ki-hun saw the whites of the eyes of Sergio Romero but blinked first.

The punishment of that moment is what is impressive about Argentina.

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