Bullish Argentina confident of victory over South Korea


Pretoria : Controversial Argentina coach, Diego Maradona, has predicted victory for his team against South Korea in a World Cup Group B match at Soccer City in Johannesburg Thursday.

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Both teams won their opening group games – Argentina were 1-0 winners over Nigeria, while Korea defeated one-time European champions Greece 2-0.

“I don’t know whether we’re favourites, but we are ready to fight given our quality. A victory reassures you, gives you more confidence. We have a great deal of confidence now and if we beat Korea, it would mean we are almost guaranteed our place in the next round,” Maradona said ahead of the match.

“Korea play a collective game and they are a very, very fast an excellent team. They really go for the ball and goal. We therefore have to be very careful. We don’t have to give away the ball so easily because they could race into a counter attack.”

And Maradona is placing his hopes on the form of Barcelona star Lionel Messi to go on and give Argentina their third World Cup trophy in South Africa.

“I want to be champion and I have Messi on board with a wonderful team behind him. (Against Nigeria) He was very clam, serene, so matured. He wanted to be a leader of his fellow players. He looked for the ball. He showed qualities we have not seen for a while with Argentina,” he remarked.

“Nigeria died in a football sense when Messi went out and played.”

However, Argentina will be without experienced playmaker Juan Sebastian Veron, who is nursing a slight calf strain. His place will be taken by Liverpool star Maxi Rodriguez.

South Korea have also been lifted by their impressive showing against the Greeks at the weekend.

Top star Park Ji-Sung of Manchester United scored one of his team’s goals versus the Greeks and has said if Taegeuk Warriors play as a team as they did at the weekend, they could upset the mighty South Americans.

“Argentina are the best team in our group, but if we play as a team as we did (against Greece) we’re capable of getting a result,” said Park, named the man of the match versus Greece.

Park’s coach, Huh Jung-Moo, also disclosed that his team have grown in confidence since their first World Cup win outside Asia and so can now upset the star-studded Argentina team.

Jung-Moo featured at Mexico 1986 as a player where he faced Diego Maradona, his rival in the dugout Thursday. South Korea lost 1-3 but not without Jung-Moo literally stamping his presence on the Argentina star.

“We’ll give it our best shot, because my players can only grow in stature against opponents of their calibre. Argentina are among the favourites but we have good players, too,” said the 55-year-old coach, who plans to adopt a more defensive approach and a play a lone striker so as to curtail the threat that will be posed by Messi.

South Korea could well also be encouraged by the solid performance of their neighbours North Korea, who held mighty Brazil to a goalless draw in the first half of their match Tuesday before they succumbed 1-2.

Both teams parade sleek attacking machines with the Argentina strikers the more famous, but up against an Argentina defence that looked uncertain, particularly Jonas Guteirrez at right back, the fast South Korean forwards could also fancy their chances.