Lionel Messi has yet to find the back of the net in South Africa, but that has not stopped Argentina from leading the pack.
Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat trick as Argentina beat South Korea 4-1 on Thursday, giving the Albiceleste a Group B-leading six points with one game left in group play.
Higuain became the first player to score three goals in a World Cup match since 2002 and provided all the offence in another dominating effort by Messi and the Argentine forwards.
“I’m very happy to score the goals, but we have to think of the team as a whole,” Higuain told the Associated Press.
With Messi held off the scoring sheet for a second game in a row despite creating plenty of scoring chances, coach Diego Maradona’s team is showing the tournament just how deep their skilled roster of forwards are.
Argentina’s attack proved to be too much for South Korea, outshooting them 11-2 and controlling the tempo of play almost exclusively.
“I have to congratulate the players … everything they did worked out well,” Maradona said. “I am very happy.”
Park Chu-young’s own goal got Argentina on the board in the 17th minute after deflecting in a free kick from Messi past a defenseless Sung-Ryong Jung.
Higuain added to the lead in the 33rd to make it 2-0 before answering South-Korea’s Lee Chung-yong’s tying goal with a tap in, after a great effort by Messi to score was denied. The 22-year-old striker’s fourth goal gave him five in seven international appearances.
The Argentines were without Juan Sebastian Veron, who was unavailable for the game because of a aggravating right calf injury. Maradona said the injured midfielder should be ready to go in time for their final group match.
Argentina can advance onto the round of 16 with a win over Greece on Tuesday.