Argentina send Greece packing
Goals from Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo saw Argentina maintain their 100 per cent record as they saw off Greece 2-0.
Last Updated: 23/06/10 1:24pm
Goals from Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo saw Argentina maintain their 100 per cent record as they saw off Greece 2-0 in Polokwane.
Diego Maradona's side were virtually guaranteed to progress before kick-off and they move forward as comfortable winners of Group B, setting up a tie against Mexico in the last 16.
Greece had been hoping to sneak in behind them but will now be on the first plane home after failing to earn the required result.
In truth they offered little against Argentina, with a lack of adventure having cost them dear throughout the tournament.
The South Americans, who were captained on the night by Lionel Messi as Maradona took the opportunity to shuffle his pack, controlled possession early on but were frustrated by resolute defending.
Greece appeared to be relying on their ability from set-pieces, which saw them to Euro 2004 glory, and took every chance to try and knock the dangerous Messi out of his stride.
The first half-chance of any note took almost 20 minutes to arrive, as Sergio Aguero made a clever darting run into the box and tested Alexandros Tzorvas at his near post.
From the resulting corner Juan Sebastian Veron had the Greek keeper at full stretch once again, with a stinging drive from 20 yards needing to be touched over the bar.
While Greece were offering little as an attacking unit they did almost send Georgios Samaras clear on the half-hour mark, but Georgios Karagounis' lofted pass drifted through to Sergio Romero.
Argentina were still struggling to unlock the door at this point and Diego Milito was unable to get a touch to a flashing cross-shot from Veron.
Konstantinos Katsouranis did escape in behind as the half wore on, but a slide rule pass from Samaras had slightly too much on it.
In the closing seconds Argentina raised their game and came close to forcing a breakthrough, and Tzorvas had to be alert to parry an angled drive from Maxi Rodriguez and a curling effort from Messi.
More of the same was expected after the interval, but it was Greece who came agonisingly close within minutes of the restart.
Samaras, who was lively throughout, bustled his way in on goal but, despite having two bites of the cherry, he hooked well wide when presented with a clear sight of the target.
As the hour mark approached Milito was again left with far too much space inside the box, but a floated cross from Clemente Rodriguez flew inches over his head.
Messi began to see more of the ball as legs began to tire, but the inevitable flurry of second half changes failed to have the desired impact on either team.
Otto Rehhagel steadfastly refused to waver from his defensive approach, despite news of South Korea's result filtering through, and Greece continued to sit tight.
With 20 minutes to go it seemed the first goal was finally about to arrive, but Tzorvas produced another smart save down low to deny Mario Bolatti.
Greece were now, for the first time, starting to wobble at the back as the Argentina onslaught continued, with some rather nervy clearances putting them firmly on the back foot.
It was quickly becoming only a matter of time before the opener arrived and it was duly delivered 13 minutes from time when Greece failed to deal with a corner and Demichelis lashed home.
He nodded an initial header into team-mate Milito but was alert enough to pounce on the loose ball and rifle past a helpless Tzorvas from close range.
Messi was then denied by some heroic defending and the woodwork as he looked to put the game to bed.
A typically mesmeric run with four minutes remaining took him past defenders with ease, as he danced his way into the box, but he saw a well-struck shot cannon back off a post.
The Barcelona man then helped to lay on Palermo's late second as he forced another top save from Tzorvas, but he could only divert the ball into the path of the experienced Boca Juniors striker who rolled into an empty net.
Greece suddenly awoke from their slumber with the game already over, forcing a couple of late saves from Romero, but it was all far too little, too late and they exit the tournament having offered little to the South African showpiece.