Gonzalo Higuain scored three goals as Argentina beat South Korea 4-1 for its second straight World Cup win in Group B.
Higuain scored twice in four minutes to finish off the victory at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, following his first-half score. An own goal by Park Chu Young had put Argentina ahead 1-0. Lee Chung Yong pulled a goal back on the stroke of halftime.
Argentina, which struggled in qualifying under its coach Diego Maradona, who played in its 1986 World Cup-winning team, has a perfect record after two of three first-phase group games. It had already downed Nigeria 1-0.
“This is an important victory, and it allows us to be basically qualified with one game left to play,” Higuain told reporters. “Look at the goals today, the team played a great match.”
Argentina led when a free kick bounced off Park’s shin into his own goal. Higuain made it 2-0 when he headed a cross down onto the turf and it bounced over Jung Sung Ryong as the goalkeeper dived to reach the ball.
Although Argentina was dominating, South Korea pulled a goal back just before halftime when defender Martin Demichelis failed to bring the ball under control on the edge of the penalty box. Lee darted in and drove a shot past goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Yeom Ki Hun had a chance to level the scores after 55 minutes but shot into the side-netting, a miss that South Korea coach Huh Jung Moo said was the “turning point.”
“Our players fought hard, but we didn’t manage to control the flow of the game and that was the decisive factor,” Huh told reporters. “The score was unexpectedly high, but there’s always a possibility we will reach the round of 16 and so everything depends on the last game,” against Nigeria on June 22.
Higuain said his team still mustn’t let its hopes get too high.
“The goal against us put some pressure on us but we knew we’d get more chances to score. We’re happy with this match but we’re not overly euphoric,” he added.
Argentina and Spain, which lost 1-0 against Switzerland yesterday, were the 5-1 second favorites to win the World Cup earlier today with bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc, which rated five- time champion Brazil as the 4-1 favorite.
Also today, Greece plays Nigeria in Bloemfontein in the other Group B game. France meets Mexico at Polokwane in Group A.