By Matt O'Leary
Argentina produced one of the best performances of the World Cup with a 4-1 romp over South Korea. The Germans had made a strong case for top title challengers with their slightly surprising 4-0 rout over Australia earlier in the week, but Argentinas performance at Soccer City matched that of the Germans. The Argentinians looked very dangerous going forward and probably could have scored 6 or 7 against the Koreans.
Soccer City Stadium was full of Argentina fans and they were in top spirits even before the kickoff. Getting into the national stadium proved as difficult and as stressful as it was for the Netherlands-Denmark game on Monday. We drove in from the opposite direction hoping to park closer to the stadium and to avoid traffic. We were unsuccessful in both regards. We sat in an hour and a half of traffic on Monday, and today had to sit in bumper to bumper traffic for about 45 minutes before finally giving up and parking in a patch of dirt on the side of Nasrec Road.
Local African guys were again showing their entrepreneurial characters by parking fans cars and charging 50 rand each. Each patch of dirt had a different group of guys running the show but the South African police were not too far away, keeping an eye on things. Every cardboard sign held up by the local entrepreneurs advertised the same thing; safe parking. The guys that parked our car promised that it would not only be safe but that it also would not be blocked in, an improvement on our prior parking situations. They made us sign something so I have no idea what that was or what their thinking was behind it, but we found our car safe and sound after the game and all the guys had been very friendly.
Walking to the stadium, it was the usual set up of locals trying to sell you everything from flags to cell phones. One girl, no older than ten years old, held her cardboard sign in front of us and asked if we wanted safe parking even though we were walking past her and were no longer in a car.
Inside the ground, the Koreans had a bigger fan contingent than I was anticipating and from my viewpoint there were three large red sections of South Korean fans. There were probably at least 1500 in each of the three sections, and the group behind one of the corner flags spent the entire match standing. Two humongous South Korea flags were sprinted up the lower sections of the stadium during their national anthem. It was very impressive and covered maybe 25-35 rows of fans, an operation only the Koreans could pull off.
The sky blue and white of Argentina dominated Soccer City though, and once they broke out in song it could be heard throughout the stadium. I wish I understood the words to a particular song because once they started singing, every Argentinean fan in the stadium stood up and bounced on the balls of their feet until the song ended. I never thought the Argentinean fans would produce a better atmosphere than the Dutch but they certainly did and it only got louder every time their heroes hit the back of the net.
Argentina played a fluent, attacking style with Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez leading the line. Gonzalo Higuan eventually got his hat-trick but for me, Messis eloquent skill and Tevezs unstoppable work rate were more important for Argentinas overall performance. They proved themselves to be one of the favorites and should they hang on to win Group B and the Germans win Group D, the two historic nations could square off in the quarterfinals.
Argentina will have an easier path in the round of 16, as they will play against the second placed team of Group A (probably Uruguay or Mexico). The Germans, however, will probably match up against either the USA or England in the last 16 and either contest would prove a strong challenge.