Argentina eye second round

2010-06-17 11:50
Lionel Messi of Argentina will want to play a vital role in securing his team's place in the knockout stages. (AP)
Johannesburg - Former champions Argentina could become the first qualifiers for the second round of the World Cup Thursday if they defeat South Korea in a top-of-the-table Group B clash.

A win for the South Americans coached by Diego Maradona would lift them to six points and an unassailable lead in the mini-league if Greece and Nigeria draw later in Bloemfontein.

The same scenario applies to the Park Ji-Sung-inspired South Koreans, impressive 2-0 winners over Greece in Port Elizabeth last Saturday, which came before an early Gabriel Heinze headed goal separated Argentina and Nigeria in Johannesburg.

Maradona and his Korean counterpart Huh Jung-Moo were on-field opponents 24 years ago when the Argentinians defeated the Koreans 3-1 in the only other World Cup game between the countries.

"He was not playing football - it was more like taekwondo," said Maradona, as he recalled one tackle from Huh that left the Argentine legend writhing in pain.

Huh disagreed: "I did not kick him intentionally. If that had been the case the referee would have sent me off but I did not even get a yellow card during the match."

Greece vs Nigeria

Greek coach Otto Rehhagel has no intention of abandoning his defensive strategy although only a win will suffice against Nigeria at a Free State Stadium that organisers hope will be fuller than for Japan's win over Cameroon.

"Maybe one day when we have Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka and Lionel Messi in the team, then we can certainly play attacking football," said the German who will forever be idolised in Greece after guiding them to a surprise Euro 2004 title.

Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback was given a second chance - as a replacement for the sacked Shaibu Amodu - to be at the World Cup after failing to get his native Sweden through.

He accepts the must-win challenge facing the 'Super Eagles' who need three points to retain a realistic chance of making the second round for the third time in four appearances.

"I'm really looking forward to it even as it is... probably a must-win to go through to the second round. I see it as a positive challenge and I think having talked to the players they look upon it the same," Lagerback said.

France vs Mexico

Tradition strongly favours France ahead of a Group A showdown with Mexico in the northern city of Polokwane as "Les Bleus" have won five of six previous encounters and drawn the other.

But a French team held goalless by Uruguay six days ago must be wary of rivals seeking to make it into the second round for the fifth consecutive tournament.
Read more on: argentina korea republic

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