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Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, South Korea Move on at World Cup

Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and South Korea advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup yesterday as host South Africa was eliminated.

Argentina beat Greece 2-0 and South Korea tied Nigeria 2-2 to progress from Group B. Uruguay defeated Mexico 1-0, sending both through from Group A, while South Africa beat 10-man France 2-1 in the final game for both teams.

“I think we’re really showing what we’re capable of,” Argentina coach Diego Maradona told reporters. “We are doing our duty, we are defending the colors of Argentina, as we’ve done all our lives,”

The top two teams from each of the eight groups qualify for the second round.

Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo scored in the final 13 minutes in Polokwane to give Argentina its third straight victory. Argentina will play Mexico in its next game on June 27.

“Argentina were clearly superior,” Greece coach Otto Rehhagel told reporters. “They were the better team and this was a deserved win for Argentina.”

Argentina finished with 9 points in Group B. South Korea had four, Greece three and Nigeria one.

Lee Jung Soo and Park Chu Young scored in Durban for South Korea, which meets Uruguay on June 26.

Nigeria took the lead in the 12th minute on a goal by Kalu Uche and Lee tied the game seven minutes before halftime. Park scored with a free kick early in the second half to give South Korea a 2-1 lead.

Nigeria’s Ayegbeni Yakubu missed a wide-open goal from three yards out in the 67th minute, then scored two minutes later from the penalty spot.

Suarez Strikes

Luis Suarez scored with a header in the 43rd minute in Rustenburg as Uruguay beat Mexico to top Group A with seven points. South Africa tied Mexico with four points, but lost out on second place on an inferior goal difference.

“If you look at the history of Uruguay over the last few World Cups it means I’m really satisfied,” coach Oscar Tabarez said at a news conference after Uruguay reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1990.

France, the 2006 runner-up to Italy, ended its tumultuous World Cup in last place with one point from the three group games.

“The first word that comes to mind is sadness,” Raymond Domenech, who coached his final game for France yesterday, said at a news conference. “Sadness for all the supporters and sadness for the players.”

South Africa’s victory wasn’t enough to prevent it becoming the first World Cup host ousted in the initial group stage. Mexico finished with a goal difference of plus-1, while South Africa was minus-2.

Red Card

“We always believed it was possible to qualify,” South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar told reporters. “People can’t say that we didn’t give it our best.”

Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela scored for South Africa. Yoann Gourcuff was red-carded in the 25th minute for France after elbowing MacBeth Sibaya as the two jumped for the ball.

Florent Malouda scored in the 70th minute for France, which was playing its first game since striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting Domenech at halftime of its 2-0 loss to Mexico on June 17.

The team refused to train three days ago in protest of the French Football Federation’s decision to expel Anelka. Domenech, who said he supported the dismissal, benched captain Patrice Evra yesterday and gave the post to Alou Diarra.

The Netherlands in Group E and Brazil in Group G have already qualified for the next round with one group game remaining.

Slovenia faces England and the U.S. plays Algeria today in Group C. In Group D, Ghana meets Germany and Australia plays Serbia.

Teams are ranked in each group by points from group matches, followed by goal difference and goals scored in all group matches. Ultimately, world governing body FIFA can decide which team moves on by drawing lots.

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