June 18, 2013
FIFA World Cup: Group BWednesday, June 23, 2010
Demichelis, Palermo lead Argentina to round of sixteen
Lionel Messi marked his first match as Argentina captain with a win as they beat an ultra defensive Greece side 2-0 and cruised into the World Cup second round as Group B winners, leaving the Greeks out.
Argentina broke Greece's resistance 13 minutes from time through centre back Martín Demichelis, who blasted the ball into the net after his header from a corner was partially blocked.
Messi made the second goal for Martín Palermo, who tucked away the rebound in the 89th minute after his skipper dribbled into the area and saw his shot parried by Alexandros Tzorvas.
Argentina completed their third successive victory to finish top of the group with a maximum nine points and will play Mexico at Johannesburg's Soccer City in the second round on Sunday.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona, who made seven changes to the side that trounced South Korea five days ago, including resting usual captain Javier Mascherano, as usual danced with delight at the end of the match in celebration.
Before making the second goal, Messi, who became Argentina's youngest World Cup captain two days short of his 23rd birthday, had two efforts tipped away by Tzorvas, who had a busy night.
The goalkeeper, who saved twice from Sergio Agüero in the first half, also stopped an effort from point-blank range by midfielder Mario Bolatti at a corner with 21 minutes to go.
Messi was kept in tight check by the man-marking of Socratis Papastathopoulos, and was rarely able to show off his skills.
Greece forward Giorgos Samaras had a good chance early in the second half on the left of the box but was wide of the far post with their first shot at goal after a sterile first half.
After almost 20 minutes of midfield sparring from the kickoff, a deep pass from Juan Sebastian Verón sent Agüero through and his shot from the left was saved by Tzorvas.
The corner was cleared to Verón who shot from 30 meters with the keeper again alert enough to tip the ball over the bar.
Just past the half-hour, Agüero was close again when he met a right-wing cross but his shot was blocked by Loukas Vyntra.
Samaras then put a low ball through to Kostas Katsouranis running down the middle but he failed to reach it.
Sergio Romero had to fist away a free kick from Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis then Tzorvas had to save sharply again from Maxi Rodríguez and Messi, with his first effort of the match, just before halftime.
It was left to Demichelis to put Argentina ahead with his late strike but Messi was to play a big part in their second when he fizzed a shot goal wards from the edge of the area and Palermo was on hand to convert the rebound and seal victory.
Now Argentina must prepare for a clash with Mexico, their opponents at the same stage of the 2006 finals when they won 2-1 after extra time in one of the best games of the tournament.