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Argentina crush South Korea 4-1

Johannesburg: Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat trick in Argentina’s 4-1 win over South Korea at the World Cup on Thursday, a result that put the South Americans on the brink of qualifying for the next round from Group B.

Higuain scored his first goal in the 33rd minute, making it 2-0 following an own goal from Park Chu-young, after Nicolas Burdisso flicked on a cross from Maxi Rodriguez.

Lee Chung-yong pulled one back for South Korea by pouncing on a defensive mistake in first-half injury time, but Higuain added two second-half goals — in the 76th and 80th minutes — put the result beyond doubt.

With Lionel Messi playing in a slightly deeper role, Argentina lacked a cutting edge in the opening stages, its main threat coming down the left wing where Carlos Tevez was drifting into space and linking well with Gabriel Heinze and Angel Di Maria.

Higuain, who missed a string of chances in the opening match against Nigeria, shot high over the bar in the eighth minute and Messi only showed occasional flashes of brilliance as the South Korean midfield closed him down.

South Korea came close in the 26th when Ki Sung-yong sent in a swerving shot from outside the box that just cleared the crossbar.

Two minutes later, Messi backheeled a free kick to Tevez, who sent a powerful shot over the bar.

The match was played in a cold wind, and the second half saw the South Koreans emerge with more confidence after they had pulled a goal back.

In the 58th, Yeom Ki-hun almost equalized following a flowing counterattack but put his shot just wide of the left-hand post.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona brought on striker Sergio Aguero in the closing stages, and with 14 minutes left Messi skipped past two challenges and shot against the post, and Higuain stabbed in the third goal.

Four minutes later, Messi played in Aguero, who crossed for Higuain to head in the fourth.

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