Evening Standard

Gonzalo Higuain has his dad to thank after today scoring the first hat-trick of this World Cup to put Argentina on the verge of qualifying for the last 16.

The Real Madrid striker met up with his dad, former River Plate defender Jorge, on Monday afternoon to get some advice after struggling in the 1-0 win over Nigeria 48 hours earlier.

The 22-year-old was substituted in the Group B opener after missing a couple of gilt-edged chances and there was talk before today’s match he could lose his place up front to Diego Milito or Sergio Aguero.

But coach Diego Maradona decided to stick with Higuain and was rewarded handsomely as the forward claimed the goals which put Argentina firmly in control of the group with only Greece left to play on Tuesday.

This impressive display — coming 24 hours after European champions Spain suffered a shock defeat to Switzerland — saw Maradona’s side installed as the new favourites for the finals.

It took Higuain a little time to find his range today as he missed the first decent chance, lashing hit shot over the bar after neat build-up play involving Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi.

Argentina had the better of the early play and were gifted their lead in the 17th minute.

A nicely flighted free-kick from Messi on the left caught out Park Chu-young and the ball deflected off the Monaco man and into his own net.

Almost instantly after the restart, another direct run from Messi saw the ball fall into the path of Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez, who pulled his 20-yard strike wide.

Ki Sung-yong tried to hit back for the Koreans, sending a dipping long-range strike narrowly over the crossbar.

Walter Samuel, who hardly broke sweat in the opening quarter, was then forced off with a hamstring problem — the Inter Milan defender replaced by Nicolas Burdisso.

Manchester City forward Tevez almost doubled the advantage shortly before the half-hour mark when his fizzing 20-yard free-kick continued to rise and ended up in the north stand at Soccer City.

But that lead was extended in the 33rd minute when a short free-kick on the left came to Rodriguez, whose ball into the box was flicked on by Burdisso to Higuain, who put his free header beyond Jung Sung-ryong.

The goalkeeper prevented his side from falling further behind in the 40th minute — first coming off his line to punch away a cross-shot from the right by Higuain.

He then made a flying save to tip over Angel di Maria’s shot from the edge of the box.

The Argentines were in control but were hit by a sucker punch just before half-time — although they played a big part in their own downfall.

Before the tournament, there were question marks over their back-line and centre-half Martin Demichelis showed just how brittle they can be.

He made a hash of dealing with a simple ball across the edge of his box and Bolton’s Lee Chung-yong capitalised to score.

That goal galvanised the Asians and they almost equalised on the hour through Yeom Ki-hun but he slammed the ball into the side netting.

Higuain made Korea pay for that miss in the 76th minute, tapping the ball in after Messi’s shot from a tight angle had rebounded off the post.

The hat-trick was completed four minutes later as Higuain scored with his second header of the match. Although he was substituted soon after it was in far happier circumstances than it had been against Nigeria.

Higuain is now the top scorer for the tournament and on this form he is sure to keep his place in the side and get the chance to add to his tally.


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