x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Slick Argentina thrill Maradona

Cocky and confident, Diego Maradona lavished praise on his Argentina team following their 4-1 victory over South Korea yesterday.

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, left, scored a hat-trick in the South Americans' resounding victory.
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, left, scored a hat-trick in the South Americans' resounding victory.

JOHANNESBURG // Cocky and confident, Diego Maradona lavished praise on his Argentina team following their 4-1 victory over South Korea yesterday, which saw them collect maximum points for the second time this week. Maradona, having seen his side play some scintillating football, was understandably jovial as he addressed a packed media room. "I have to commend my boys for the great job they have done. We were never worried about them and they never upset us. Korea were never capable of controlling us. The only way South Korea would have made our lives difficult would have be if we had allowed them to," he said, before referencing the mistake made by Martin Demichelis that allowed Korea to pull it back to 2-1.

"It did not affect us badly at all. In fact, it made us more determined to be even stronger and play even better in the second half. "Of course, [Korea] scored, but they were never able to dominate any part of the match. I have 23 top players and they are all ready to put on the jersey and work on the pitch. That makes you happy and then you have peace of mind." Argentina dominated from the first whistle, with the attacking quartet of Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria all combining well to fire an early warning of intent.

An own goal from Chu-young Park, the Korea forward, opened the scoring in the 16th minute. When, 17 minutes later, Higuain headed home a Maxi Rodriguez cross it looked like Korea might collapse. Instead, a comical communication breakdown in the Argentine defence allowed Chung-yong Lee to pull one back. Javier Mascherano, Argentina's captain, blamed the mistake on the deafening drone of the vuvuzelas.

Argentina returned after the break rejuvenated and completely outplayed their opponents. With Messi pulling the strings, Higuain, prolific for Real Madrid, was in the right place to claim the plaudits. His tap-in from a Messi shot that struck the post extended the lead, before a neat headed finish after a wonderful passing move between Messi and Sergio Aguero, the impressive substitute, wrapped up the hat-trick, the points and, probably, a place in the last 16. gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Group B
Country M W D L GF GA Pts
Argentina 2 2 0 0 5 1 6
South Korea 2 1 0 1 3 4 3
Greece 2 1 0 1 2 3 3
Nigeria 2 0 0 2 1 3 0