Argentina remains undefeated in World Cup

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

POLOKWANE, South Africa -- Look out, world. Even playing mostly backups Argentina looks good.

Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo scored second-half goals Tuesday as Argentina beat Greece 2-0 at the World Cup to win Group B.

Coach Diego Maradona replaced seven starters from the Albiceleste lineup that ran up a 4-1 victory over South Korea -- the other team to make it out of the group -- but it didn't matter much. Argentina still won its third straight game.

"We're showing ourselves that many of the things you (journalists) said were wrong," Maradona said, referring to predictions that his team, which struggled in South American qualifying, would do the same in South Africa.

"The players leave everything they have on the pitch, they're 100 percent professionals and they make the people happy."

Captain Javier Mascherano and strikers Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain were all among those given the night off. That gave player of the year Lionel Messi the chance to wear the captain's armband for the first time. Turning 23 on Thursday, he's the youngest captain ever for the two-time world champions.

Midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron returned after missing the previous game with a right-calf injury.

Demichelis scored from short range in the 77th minute after his header bounced off Diego Milito and back into his path. Palermo's came in the 89th from a rebound after Greece goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas had saved a shot by Lionel Messi.

"This is an incredible sensation," Palermo said. "I have no words to describe the feeling I had on the pitch."

Just minutes earlier, Messi's hard, left-footed shot hit the near post.

Although their game was somewhat less fluid than in previous matches, Argentina dominated the match at 45,000-capacity Peter Mokaba Stadium, where their fans clearly outnumbered Greek supporters.

"A well-deserved victory, no doubt about that," Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. "We wanted to avoid an early goal, we managed to do that, but of course Argentina has more class and that earned them the win."

Rehhagel said his team "played with their hearts and with excitement. But it was just not enough to cause Argentina much troubles."

Greece was eliminated from the World Cup with the loss. Nigeria, which tied South Korea 2-2, also was knocked out.

Argentina initially preferred to keep possession instead of pushing to create chances.

The first shot on goal came in the 18th minute when Sergio Aguero picked up a pass by Veron and dribbled past two Greece defenders before his left-foot shot forced Tzorvas into a diving save. A minute later, Tzorvas pushed the ball over the crossbar after a 30-yard attempt by Veron.

And, in the end, Argentina outshot Greece 22-7.

"Now the road gets more difficult," Maradona said. Next up is Mexico on Sunday at Johannesburg's Soccer City in the round of 16.

"Mexico is not going to be easy -- very difficult opponent."


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