Messi's Argentina show full pack of cards

JOHANNESBURG - A masterclass in midfield creativity from Lionel Messi, set piece surprises and a Gonzalo Higuain hat-trick reflected an exciting Argentine cocktail of attacking flair at the World Cup on Thursday.

Argentina overwhelmed South Korea in their second Group B match with the sheer skills of their multifaceted attack, four goals and several near misses, one from Messi that might have been the goal of the finals.

On this form, rich in attacking variety, Diego Maradona's team can go on to win Argentina's third world title while taking the luxury of possibly never giving two-goal Champions League final striker Diego Milito more than the odd bit part.

NEWS: Higuain hits hat-trick in 4-1 win

When the Koreans packed their defence in the first quarter of the match, Argentina resolved the difficulty of getting through with set pieces to score their first two goals.

The Koreans, however well organised, were unable to cope with the flight of the free kicks Messi aimed into the middle of the box.

It seemed only a matter of time before Argentina would score from a field attack but Messi's brilliant run through the defence ended with a save and within minutes what might have been a 3-0 lead became 2-1 when South Korea pulled one back after a defensive blunder.

The Argentine defence has been tested now by two different kinds of attacks from Nigeria and South Korea and coped partly through their skill on the ball but also because of the profligacy of their opponents.

One of Argentina's strengths is the depth of quality in the squad. On Thursday, Nicolas Burdisso slotted in seamlessly for the injured Walter Samuel. Maradona sent on Sergio Aguero for Carlos Tevez and the attack was revitalised.

Qualification for the knockout phased might be almost in the bag but the stronger teams Argentina will face when they get there will pose a greater challenge to their rearguard though with each match Maradona is confident of improvement.

Where Maradona really draws heart is from the form of his fowards and particularly Messi, who ran brilliantly to bring the other attackers into the action, playing from deeper than against Nigeria on Saturday to help cover for the absence in central midfield of the injured Veron.

Follow on Twitter Join on Facebook