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Higuain hat-trick propels Argentina to 4-1 victory

The first hat-trick of the World Cup finals from Gonzalo Higuain carried Argentina to a convincing 4-1 victory over South Korea on Thursday, putting the South Americans within touching distance of the last 16, reports Dhiman Sarkar. See special

sports Updated: Jun 18, 2010 00:20 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times

So intimidating is Argentina's reputation that it now fetches goals. Nigeria nearly paid for their fear to tackle Lionel

Argentine trick-Stars
Of the 49 hat-tricks scored in World Cup, Argentina have four hat-tricks. Their first hat-trick was scored way back in 1930 and the latest happened on Thursday evening.

Guillermo Stabile: While most enthusiasts think of this as the first hat-trick of the World Cup, it actually isn’t. Stabile’s sterling hat-trick against Mexico in the first round of the 1930 edition came two days after Bert Patenaude's (USA) effort against the Paraguayans. It doesn't diminish the importance of the achievement though.

Gabriel Batistuta: Batigoal as he was affectionately called scored two hat-tricks in successive tournaments. In 1994 he managed three goals past Greece while in 1998 it was Jamaica's turn to face his versatile efforts.

Gonzalo Higuain: The latest member of the elite list put three past a hapless South Korean defence. In all fairness, his hat-trick would not have been possible without the playmaking skills of Messi. The goals, however, are definitely his.

Messi. South Korea did for trying to wrestle Argentina in their backyard.

And it wasn't just Messi they had to hustle. The Flea buzzed all right but from behind Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain. Messi contributed to all four goals and once in each half, snaked past South Koreans making them chase a crooked shadow.

But two wins into this World Cup, Argentina showed that even though it radiates far and wide, they aren't all about the brilliance of Messi. Non-believers of coach Diego Maradona's comment that he had a wonderfully talented group behind Messi should have seen his son-in-law Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Tevez and Higuain play.

Somewhat overshadowed by one man's magic against Nigeria, they dazzled on a bright but cold and windy afternoon. If South Korea were outwitted and outplayed it was because Argentina's passes embroidered the Soccer City turf, their swift runs, sudden breaks and clinical finishing finally gave this World Cup a dose of quality it so desperately needed.

Early physical aggression seemed the only way South Korea wanted to contain them. Yeom Ki Hun was booked for a challenge on Messi and, twice in a minute, Oh Beom Seok tried grappling Di Maria off the ball. The second offence led to a free-kick and an own goal after Martin Demichelis headed Messi's free-kick into the legs of Lee Chun Young.

Di Maria was scythed again on the right and Tevez's blast from a cheeky free-kick just went over. A strong run from Tevez and Higuain's attempt to connect with a scissors-kick didn't work before Tevez won another free-kick. It led to goal No. 2, Messi playing it for Maxi Rodrigues whose drive was headed square by Burdisso for Higuain to head home.

None of Higuain's goals reflected the Argentine masterclass performance though the build-ups did. Higuan's second was more of a tribute to Messi, the tap-in following a super run from the wizard during which he skipped two challenges. The hattrick was completed by another header after Messi scooped for Aguero, who fired a cross from the left.

Demichelis's blunder, which Lee Chung Yong exploited with a smart flick, could have been a lifeline for South Korea and had Yeom Ki Hun kept his left-footer on target, the match could have warmed into contest.

But by the time Park Ji-sung's effort hit the post, South Korea had been steamrollered by a symphony of skills orchestrated by a man who still loves the feel of a football. Remember the flick from the technical area?

First Published: Jun 17, 2010 18:21 IST