Thursday, 17 June 2010

Argentina v South Korea

Argentina 4 - 1 South Korea
Park Chu-Young (og) 16 Lee Chung-Yong 45 + 1
Higuain 33, 76, 80

This was one of the best games yet. It was played out of order, France v Mexico having been held over until tonight (does anyone know why?), but we didn't mind.

The early action was all Argentina. Tevez played a one two with Heinze then put Higuain in, but he shot wide. A few minutes later he shot over when he might have crossed. Don't worry mate, your day may look up.

Park Chu-Young's day looked rapidly down in the sixteenth minute, when a Messi free kick just cleared the throng to land unexpectedly on his shin and bounce into his own net. He's a forward, you know. They really shouldn't stand in places like that, it's asking for trouble. Bet David Ginola didn't score many own goals.

Ki Sung-Yeung tried to level things up a few minutes with a shot from thirty yards. It was well struck, got over the keeper but didn't quite dip enough to get under the bar. There you go, it's the ball's fault. If he'd been playing with an inflated sheep's bladder dipped in urine and boot polish like proper footballers, that would have gone in.

Tevez was next to impress. He ran the ball fifty yards, dodged some defenders and crossed it to Higuain, whose overhead kick completely missed. Give it time, lad, give it time.

Di Maria was next to unimpress. He handled the ball to control it, realised the ref and linesman had both missed it, and blithely carried on. Such va-va-voom.

Tevez had a good chance from a free kick, which went just over, and then Higuain got the second. It was a Maxi Rodriguez cross (you may remember he scored the goal of the last World Cup, against Mexico), flicked on by Burdisso to Higuain, whose header went precisely in at the right hand post. Beautiful, and seemingly conclusive, even so early in the game.

Tevez and Messi between them were bossing the game, with a killer blend of power and artistry. To South Korea it must have been like being in a locked room with Zorro trying to carve a Z into you. And a bear. Also armed with a sword.

Yes I know, smartarse. You try thinking of a famous Argentinian with a sword.

Who would have thought such a team had a total klutz in it? Just before the end of the first half, Demichelis picked up the ball on the edge of his own box, neglecting all that technical stuff about having some vague idea where the opposition is, turned slowly and got tackled by Lee Chung-Yong. Lee was clear through, Demichelis being the last man, and had an easy goal.

The half-time whistle went just afterwards, and Argentina might have been a bit worried. They didn't need to be.

Messi had a chance to restore the two goal gap just after the restart. He played a nice little one two with Higuain, but the shot was deflected. If he'd hit it a second earlier rather than taking the extra touch he might have scored, but that's Messi for you, never making the crucial plays.

Their next two chances went begging, and they might have been getting a bit nervous. Gutierrez got booked for dissent, and now misses the Greece game. A minute later, Mascherano got one as well, for a slightly late tackle.

This was the South Korean moment. First they missed a free kick, but then Yeom Ki-Hun picked up a ball from Lee Chung-Yong and was in. It could have been the moment of his young life, but he hit the ball with his left foot instead of his right, and it hit the side netting. I think everyone thought he was about to equalise. Now the momentum shifted back to Argentina.

Firstly, Maradonna played a delicate little chip exactly where he wanted it to go. All right, he was in a suit, the ball was out of play and he actually chipped it to the fourth official, but it did establish once and for all which dugout the real talent was in. The Korean manager, Huh Jung-Moo, once marked Maradonna in a game, which experience inspired him to describe their methods as more Tae Kwon Do than football. I'm sure he relished his moment.

Then the Argentine keeper Romero got in on the act. He ran out to knock a through ball just past the onrushing Korean forward, had to chase it another ten yards and kicked it so far it reached the other goal in just one bounce, almost forcing the keeper to tip it over.

Finally they resorted to more conventional methods. Messi just dribbled it in and shot. The keeper parried it, it came back to him and he shot again. This time it hit the near post, but rebounded across the face of the goal for Higuain to tap in. There was a hint of offside about it, but the linesman didn't raise his flag and it was allowed. I thought it was possibly just OK, depending on how you interpret the crucial word level in the offside rules.

Just to remove any hint of ambiguity, he got another one four minutes later. A cross came to him, the Korean defenders couldn't get close or high enough and he headed it back across the goal, out of the keeper's reach and in. Four one, suddenly, and it was all over.

It wasn't quite all over, in fact. Aguero, Maradonna's son in law and favourite substitute, had a couple of shots. They didn't go in, but daddy-in-law looked happy enough with his efforts. And Park Ji-Sung of Man Utd finally got a shot in, in the ninety first minute. It was easy enough for Romero, but made me wonder, was that his first shot on target?

So Argentina go from strength to strength. They've now won two games, scored five goals to one and go through to the next phase unless something hugely implausible happens. My sweepstake bet is looking good.

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