Both Argentina and South Korea, who will do battle tonight for only the second time in World Cup history, stand a chance of becoming the first qualifiers for the second round of the tournament if Greece and Nigeria draw later in Bloemfontein.
AFP - 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 Koreans, impressive 2-0 winners over Greece in Port Elizabeth last Saturday 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 Argentines 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."
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.
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.
Uruguay soared to the top of the group Wednesday with a surprisingly easy 3-0 triumph over a toothless South African team set to become the first World Cup hosts not to reach the second round.
Coach Oscar Tabarez produced a tactical masterstroke by switching star striker Diego Forlan to midfield, where he ran the show on a freezing Pretoria night and scored twice before Alvaro Pereira added a stoppage-time third goal.
Football lightweights Switzerland delivered the first unexpected knockout of the tournament by flooring heavyweights Spain 1-0 in Durban courtesy of a scrambled second-half goal from Cape Verde-born Gelson Fernandes.
It was the first Swiss success over the reigning European champions in 19 attempts and the result ended a 12-match winning streak by the star-studded pre-tournament favourites.
The result was a bitter blow to the Spaniards, who have never won the World Cup, as it raises the possibility of a second-round clash with record five-time champions Brazil, a contest many believe would make a dream final.
Chile won at the World Cup for the first time in 48 years thanks to a goal from widely-travelled Jean Beausejour, who turned in a Mauricio Isla cross during the first half against Honduras, who need the injured Humberto Suazo to recover quickly.
Date created : 2010-06-17