• Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
    Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
  • Give the Gift of SI
    Give the Gift of SI
 

Korea Republic vs. Argentina

Lionel Messi and a vast array of offensive talent are major reasons Argentina is considered a favorite to win a third World Cup title in South Africa. Capitalizing on scoring chances is going to be key if the squad plans on accomplishing that lofty goal.

Messi looks to get Argentina's offensive play going when it meets South Korea in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Argentina opened the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday, as defender Gabriel Heinze scored on a diving header in the 6th minute. La Albiceleste failed to add to that despite holding a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal.

"We should not forgive, that's what I told them after the match," coach Diego Maradona said. "In football, to forgive is to pay."

Messi will be relied upon to drive Argentina's offensive play again, but he may be looking for some results of his own. The playmaking forward came up empty on eight shots - four on net - and he hasn't scored for the national team since a 2-1 loss at Spain on Nov. 14, 2009.

Despite his struggles scoring for La Albiceleste, Messi is again expected to start behind forwards Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.

"The only thing I tell Leo is that he should have fun playing football. He should not feel any pressure when he is playing," Tevez said about the 22-year-old FIFA player of the year.

Production from Tevez and Higuain might take some pressure off Messi. Tevez and Higuain had 29 goals each for Manchester City and Real Madrid, respectively, last season.

Diego Milito, who had 30 goals in all competitions for Italy's Inter, is expected to be available off the bench.

"This team doesn't just depend on me," Messi said. "There are many players who can determine a match."

South Korea is coming off another tournament-opening victory, 2-0 over Greece on Saturday. It held a 16-6 shot advantage and never appeared to be in much danger.

"If we had been a little bit calmer, we could have had an even better result," coach Huh Jung-moo said. "In terms of scoring goals, it could have been a little bit better for us."

South Korea would like to avoid matching its dubious feat from four years ago when it became the fifth team of 36 under the current format - which started in 1998 - to win its opener only to fail to advance from the group stage.

Argentina became one of those teams in 2002.

Park Ji-Sung could be vital to South Korea's success again after dribbling through several defenders to score Saturday. The midfielder, who plays for Manchester United, has 13 goals in 89 games for his homeland.

Argentina took the only meeting between these teams, winning 3-1 in the group stage of the 1986 World Cup en route to its last world title.

The winner could clinch a berth in the next round depending on the result of the Greece-Nigeria match being played Thursday in Bloemfontein.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Draft Yasiel Puig NHL Playoffs NBA Playoffs Mark Cuban Jabari Parker
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint