Argentina continue to look impressive as they ended the group phase with a 100% record following the 2-0 victory over Greece.
Apart from Brazil, Diego Maradona’s side currently look the fancies for the tournament, despite a perceived weakness at the back. It’s just a shame that said deficiency wasn’t tested more thoroughly by a Greek team who defended in numbers for pretty much the whole 90 minutes – despite needing a victory. Manager Otto Rehhagel was hampered by being forced to make three changes – two enforced – before the hour mark, but it would have been nice to see them make more of an effort to create more. Easier said than done of course, and they can point to the mainly effective man-marking of Lionel Messi as a plus. But to see some exerted pressure – more men forward in support of Giorgios Samaras, for example – may have at least caused some Argentine jitters. Messi, despite some frustration and a barren game in front of goal, looks in prime form.
In the other Group B game, South Korea were possibly a bit lucky to go through, with Nigeria left to rue missed chances – particularly that of Ayegbeni Yakubu in front of an open goal. Fair play to the striker for taking, and scoring the penalty that ensured the 2-2 scoreline soon after, but it has to be said, there have been few better misses. Chris Iwelumo’s for Scotland is probably comparable, during their World Cup qualifier against Norway in October 2008:
The French farce was finally ended, with South Africa earning a hard-fought 2-1 win. Criticism of the France players and manager Raymond Domenech has been well documented, with president Nicolas Sarkozy apparently set to chair a meeting into the performance. Bafana Bafana meanwhile, although becoming the first host nation not to go beyond the group phase, can at least hold their heads high after a spirited effort, wrecked only by the 3-0 defeat to group winners Uruguay. With Mexico also going through from Group A, you would fancy the South Americans to beat South Korea and reach the last eight – with Mexico set to meet Argentina in the second round.