The Cup Running Over

June 12, 2010 1:11 PM

Group B Wrapup: Argentina and South Korea Look Solid

2-0 A Deserved Result for Flashy South Korea

This was a real mismatch, more so than anyone thought. Although known for its gritty offensive tactics and stalwart defensive line, this Greek side was thoroughly outclassed by a South Korean side that played with both purpose and flair. As predicted, the South Koreans' pace caused tremendous problems for a slow, aging Greek backline, with Park Ji-Sung in particular tearing them open on several occasions. The way in which the team relentlessly attacked was highly reminiscent of its 2002 run to the semi-finals. Although South Korea fouled often - 14 times - Greece was unable to use its trade-mark free kick counter attack: it didn't even register a shot on target until the 70th minute. It is indicative that playmaker and captain Georgios Karagounis was withdrawn at the interval after a miserable first half.

Although both yesterday's matches started slowly, Greece may come out flatter than any team in World Cup history: Greece has now conceded a goal in the opening seven minutes in three of the four World Cup matches it has played in its history. Based on today, Argentina, and yes, even Nigeria, will likely hammer this team again before it goes home, but the South Koreans could pose problems for Argentina in the next game. If the team plays like it did today, South Korea could definitely be one to watch.

Goalkeeping Heroics Only Positive from Miserable Nigeria Performance

This victory for Argentina could scarcely have been more comfortable, even if Maradona in a suit looked just the opposite. His side dominated possession against a lackluster Nigeria that never looked comfortable on the ball, and rarely posed a threat. Sergio Romero didn't have to make a save until deep into the second half, and even then he barely broke a sweat. Nigeria's disorganized and lackadaisical game seemed to be summed up as Peter Odemwingie tripped over his own feet on a breakaway, only to turn and blame his teammate Obafemi Martins.

Breaking from his formation in recent weeks, Maradona went for an attack-minded 4-3-3, with Lionel Messi playing a dynamic central forward role for the first time, similar to the role he plays at Barcelona. The result was that he finally looked dangerous for Argentina, controlling the action in the final third, and constantly getting into goal-scoring positions through slick one-twos with his fellow forwards. Only the incredible heroics of goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama kept Messi off the score sheet, with the Nigerian putting in a man-of-the-match performance between the posts to keep the score 1-0.

The rest of the team will need to emulate his form if Nigeria is to salvage anything from this group, which looks increasingly unlikely. As for Argentina, the side looked far more stable than it did throughout qualification, and if it can continue to release Messi as it did today, anything could happen.

Steven and Harrison Stark are the co-authors of the recently published World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics. They are analyzing the World Cup for Real Clear Sports

A Member Of