Maradona's Argentina on the Verge...

Even after doing away with Nigeria in his World Cup debut, Diego Maradona was hit by criticism from many sources. At the heart of this, was Pele who made no secrets that he does not think Maradona is anything as a coach. On ESPN television, Jurgen Klinsmann ludicrously claimed that Carlos Bilardo, who has no contact at all with the team, was pulling the strings tactically behind the scenes.

Despite all the negative publicity, Argentina and Maradona took control of Group B, thanks to a 4-1 victory over South Korea in an entertaining match at Soccer City.

Gonzalo "El Pipita" Higuain became the third Argentine to score a hat-trick in a World Cup, following in the footsteps of Guillermo Stabile against the United States in 1930 and Gabriel Batistuta against Greece at USA 1994 and Jamaica at France 1998, but the star of the show was again Lionel Messi.

In the absence of injured playmaker Juan Sebastian Veron, Messi came back deeper to receive the ball, and although he was not as threatening in the final third of the field as he was against Nigeria, the Barcelona star had a hand in all four goals and was the most influential player on the park.

Maradona changed his formation without Veron, bringing in Maxi Rodriguez to play on the right to add speed and cover in the midfield rather than bringing in a more typical playmaker such as Javier Pastore, leaving his faith in his number ten to pull the strings.

Quite often, critics of Messi have said that he is not the same player without Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, and although there is no denying the quality of the two Spain internationals, Messi has proven in the first two matches of this tournament by playing the role of distributor and orchestrator, ala Xavi, although in a higher position up the field.

Maradona's faith in Messi to play in a new role was key, but so was his decision to keep faith in Higuain. After being let down by his own finishing against Nigeria, many in the press questioned Maradona's decision to leave Diego Milito on the bench, but after today's match there is no doubt why the Real Madrid hitman was chosen: his movement.

Sometimes criticized at the club level for his wayward shooting, Higuain is a mobile forward whose movement off the ball and knack of getting into good positions make him one of the elite strikers in world football. None of his goals were truly spectacular, but each was a product of his endeavor and opportunist virtues, just as Hernan Crespo another ex-River Plate striker and Higuain's predecessor in the Argentina number nine shirt.

In addition to changing somethings tactically, Maradona has also proved yet again that he is indeed working his team on the training ground as his side have now scored three goals from set plays.

Messi's free kick forced Park Chu Young into an own goal after a run across the face of goal from Martin Demichelis. Argentina's second came after Messi played a free kick short to Maxi Rodriguez, whose cross was flicked on to the far post by Nicholas Burdisso for Higuain to nod home. Argentina's final two goals came as a result of a brilliant substitution.

Sergio "El Kun" Aguero, a speedy striker who plays high up the pitch, replaced Carlos Tevez, who often drops deep to receive the ball. Lightning quickness in Aguero combined superbly with Messi, who struck the post, leaving Higuain with a tap in. Argentina's final goal was a brilliant team goal in which Higuain, Messi, and Aguero were involved before El Pipita met Aguero's cross with a precise header.

After the match, Maradona and the Argentine players discussed how they had seen videos of the Korean side allowing goals from flicked on corners and free kicks.

Although Martin Demichelis's horrendous error gifted South Korea a lifeline and made for some nervy moments during the second period, Argentina’s much maligned defense only allowed a single shot on target despite decent pressure at times. There is no doubt that Argentina will have to improve a bit defensively against the top sides.

Now, Argentina will have a chance to rest some players against Greece, especially those who are on yellow cards, but Maradona will again go out to attack and claim the three points and complete a perfect group stage.

Vamos Argentina!

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