Three quick thoughts on Argentina-South Korea (World Cup Group B)
Three quick thoughts after Argentina beat South Korea 4-1 in Group B on Thursday.
1. Gonzalo Higuain finally establishes himself in Argentina's lineup. Given Higuain's prolific track record at Real Madrid the past two seasons (59 league goals in 110 games), it's surprising that he hadn't broken into the Argentine set-up earlier. Not only that, after the first game, against Nigeria, in which he missed several good chances, there were already calls for Inter's Diego Milito to be summoned as his replacement. Not anymore: After his three-goal haul against South Korea (although the second had a possible hint of offside), Higuain's place is no longer in doubt. He became just the third Argentine to score a hat trick in the World Cup (along with Guillermo Stabile and Gabriel Batistuta) and the first player since Portugal's Pauleta in 2002.
2. Korea coach Huh Jung-moo made all the wrong moves. As attractive as Argentina's play was, Huh basically sabotaged South Korea's chances with a series of bad tactical choices. First, he negated South Korea's attacking strengths by opting for a primarily defensive posture with a switch to a 4-5-1 formation, asking his players to sit deep. He then compounded the error with two strange lineup decisions. Huh left out right back Cha Du-ri, who had impressed in South Korea's opener against Greece with his energy and threatening runs down the flank. In his place, Huh opted for Oh Beom-seok, an ostensibly more defensive-minded fullback who's also been nicknamed the "King Of Fouls" in Korea for his style of play. During the game, Oh was beaten repeatedly, he fouled systematically and he was a liability on defense -- with most of Argentina's most potent moves coming down his flank.
The other mistake was his decision to move Park Ji-sung from out wide left to the center of the park, where he was forced to match up with powerhouse defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano instead of vulnerable right back Jonas Gutierrez. If that wasn't bad enough, trailing by just the goal at halftime, Huh then opted to replace his sole creative central midfielder, Ki Sung-yeung, with holding midfielder Kim Nam-il, while continuing to leave Oh and the ineffective Ki Hoon-yeom (wide left) in the game.
3. Center back Walter Samuel's injury could be problematic. For all of Argentina's wonderful attacking flair, it still looks very vulnerable on defense, especially if Samuel's hamstring injury keeps him out any period of time. It's safe to say that the trio of Gutierrez (a converted midfielder who continues to look uncomfortable), Martin Demichelis (error-prone, as he showed in the Champions League final and in gifting South Korea its goal Thursday) and Gabriel Heinze (slow, frequently out of position) fails to instill any confidence and likely won't be able to compensate for Samuel's absence.