Argentina eye World Cup path after six goal fiesta
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Argentina eye World Cup path after six goal fiesta

After their second game, the Argentinians emerged alongside Spain and the Czech Republic as the on-form sides in the tournament.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 14:27 IST

Argentina are cautiously eyeing the path ahead in the 2006 World Cup despite a dazzling display to secure qualification from Group C with a 6-0 humiliation of Serbia-Montenegro.

After their second game, the Argentinians emerged alongside Spain and the Czech Republic as the on-form sides in the tournament late Friday with a collective performance blending huge technical quality, speed, control and creative zest.

"This has practially assured qualification but no more than that," said captain Juan Pablo Sorin.

"We can celebrate victory, and by qualifying swiftly yet with caution it does remove the pressure we had in 2002. But the forthcoming games will be very tough, against the Netherlands and in the last eight too."

Goals from Maxi Rodriguez (2), Esteban Cambiasso, Hernan Crespo, substitutes Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi sealed the fate of an unsettled Serbia-Montenegro team which was a pale shadow of the incisive side that qualified for Germany with a virtually clean sheet.

"We were playing six-a-side football," said Chelsea's Crespo, who scored one and supplied Esteban Cambiasso with a glorious back-heeled pass after a fluid cross-field team effort for Argentina's third.

Argentinian coach Jose Pekerman also had the opportunity to display the huge range he has available in his squad.

Albeit with Serbia reduced to ten men, his two second half substitutes, Corinthians firebrand forward Tevez and teenage hope Messi left their imprint on the game by scoring high quality goals and helping to create other chances.

Yet, the players they were replacing -- notably the every dynamic Javier Saviola, who earned applause from his teammates when he went off in the 59th minute -- were hardly also-rans.

The injured Nemanja Vidic's absence from the centre of the Serb defence might have limited the scoreline, but it would barely have affected Argentina's victory such was the breadth of the South Americans' control.

"It's an absolutely terrible result, the worst in our history, and I've got take responsibility for it. I did what I could but nothing worked," said Serb coach Ilja Petkovic, who tried a host of substitutions to stem the tide.

"I dont want to point the finger at any player in particular."

Argentina's players also demonstrated the versatility prized by Pekerman, with midfielders turning into lethal goalscorers fed by forwards like Saviola and Crespo.

In response to their coach's complaint about losing possession against Ivory Coast, the Alibicelestes powered diagonally from the wings and rarely tested their opponents with high balls forward.

Although the Serbs initially forged some inroads towards the Argentine goalmouth, they were stifled by a well-organised defence that began at midfield.

"I just hope that Argentina can go on improving and can go on and do better each time," player of the match Juan Riquelme said.

In only 15 minutes on the pitch, Messi marked his return from injury with his first World Cup goal and gave flashes of his scintillating skill.

Under the eyes of a cigar-puffing Diego Maradona, who regards the 18 year-old as his heir, the young Barcelona forward also fed Crespo with an inch perfect curling cross for the fifth goal.

Ominously for other teams in Germany, Argentina has only scored as many goals in a World Cup final once before, at home in the first round against Peru in 1978. They then went on to win the tournament.

"We have a great team, a large number of good players, we feel like winning," said Pekerman, adding his usual note of caution about the next opponents on June 21 and afterwards.

First Published: Jun 17, 2006 14:27 IST