Gonzalo Higuain bagged the World Cup’s first hat-trick as Argentina romped to a 4-1 win over South Korea.
Park Chu-Young put past his own goalkeeper before Higuain neatly added a second, and Argentina looked to be cruising into the break until a mistake gifted Lee Chung-Yong a goal.
The South Koreans grew after the break and Yeom Ki-Hun wasted a glorious chance to equaliser, and Higuain made him pay.
Carlos Tevez was running the show early and he combined with Lionel Messi to play in Higuain, but the striker elected to shoot from a tight angle instead of delivering the ball into the box.
The opening goal came on 17 minutes when Messi’s corner was flicked on by Martin Demichelis and the ball then struck Chu-Young’s shin, giving Jung Sung Ryong no chance.
Less than a minute later Maxi Rodriguez blazed a shot wide, and Ki Sung-Yueng then unleashed a thunderbolt that flew just over the bar.
Argentina immediately went back on the offensive and Higuain got his overhead kick attempt all wrong following more good work from the impressive Tevez.
The former Manchester United and West Ham man then had go at goal himself, firing in free-kick that whistled just over the crossbar.
It was Tevez who drew a free-kick on the touchline moments later, and Maxi Rodriguez’s cross was flicked on by Nicolas Burdisso for an unmarked Higuain to nod home the second.
Sung-Ryong almost gifted the Argentinians a third with a poor punch, but he made amends to tip Angel Di Maria’s half-volley over the bar.
Messi made his first real mark on the game when he beat defenders, but his audacious chipped effort floated wide, and on the stroke of half-time the South Koreans were gifted a lifeline.
Demichelis hesitated with the ball on the edge of his own area and Chung-Yong robbed the defender to coolly slot past Sergio Romero.
A great save by Sung-Ryong prevented Argentina from restoring a two-goal advantage just after the restart.
Following a superb flowing move, Tevez slipped the ball through for the onrushing Di Maria who squared for Higuain, but the striker’s volley was brilliantly tipped behind by the South Korea goalkeeper.
Tevez, the star man in the first half, was not showing any signs of slowing down, cutting inside and forcing a decent save from Sung-Ryong.
South Korea, much improved from the first 45 minutes, then began to enjoy a spell of pressure and should have pulled level.
Ki-Hun raced past the defender to meet Chung-Yong’s beautifully weight pass with the outside of the boot but the striker opted to go with his stronger left foot and stabbed his shot agonisingly wide of Romero’s goal.
Argentina were looking dangerous on the break nowand Gabriel Heinze, the match-winner against Nigeria, was inches from sliding a Messi free-kick into the back of the net.
Higuain’s tame first-time effort did not trouble Sung-Ryong, but the Argentina striker would soon notch his first hat-trick with two goals in four minutes.
Messi played a neat one-two with sub Sergio Aguero and saw his initial shot blocked by the goalkeeper. The Barcelona star reacted quickest, only to see his rebound effort clip the post, but Higuain was on hand to slot the ball into an empty net.
And it was Messi and Aguero who again combined to gift-wrap Higuain his hat-trick shortly afterwards. Messi’s wonderful chip was turned across goal by Aguero, and Higuain made no mistake to head home his third.
Aguero then nearly got himself on the scoresheet in added time, twisting and turning his man only to flash a shot across the face of goal.
South Korea: Sung-Ryong, Beom-Seok, Yong-Hyung, Ji-Sung, Jung-Woo, Chu-Young (Dong-Gook 81), Young-Pyo, Jung-Soo, Sung-Yeung (Nam-Il 46), Chung-Yong, Ki-Hun.
Goal: Chung-Yong 45
Argentina: Romero, Demichelis, Heinze, Di Maria, Higuain (Bolatti 82), Messi, Tevez (Aguero 75), Samuel (Burdisso 23), Mascherano, Jonas, M Rodriguez.
Goals: Chu-Young 18 own goal, Higuain 33, 76, 80
Bookings: Chung-Yong, Ki-Hun (South Korea), Heinze, Mascherano, Jonas (Argentina)