South Korea will have to stop Argentina`s Messi

Johannesburg: South Korea will need to succeed where far more illustrious teams have failed this past year in trying to foil the at times unstoppable Lionel Messi.

And if that wasn`t daunting enough ahead of their Group B clash tomorrow, word from the increasingly confident Argentina camp is that Diego Maradona is starting to show his mettle as a coach, after being criticized back home for being tactically naive during the almost-disastrous qualifiers.

Messi, the 2009 FIFA world player of the year, made a major impact on day two of the World Cup with a dazzling performance in a 1-0 win over Nigeria. He failed to score, but only because Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made some spectacular saves.

The Barcelona forward`s darting runs and ability to draw in opponents will be key to Argentina`s bid for a third title, and he looks determined to silence those who say he struggles to reproduce his brilliant form for Barcelona when wearing his country`s colors.

He said this week that his teammates should also get the credit. But without Messi, Argentina would be far less threatening.

Another vital factor for the Argentines will be whether Maradona can prove he can cut it as a world-class coach.

Back home, where he`s enjoyed cult status since almost single-handedly leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, he`s been branded by some a liability as a coach. In the qualifiers, he used more than 100 players as he struggled to settle on a team and formation.

But Argentina`s players have been heaping praise on Maradona this week - and united in crediting him for Gabriel Heinze`s diving header from a corner, which proved just enough to beat Nigeria.

"Diego prepared us for a move like that," Veron, who supplied the corner, said Tuesday. "Luckily, it came off first time."

The players said Maradona had been studying how Nigeria defended corners, and concluded that it would be best to exploit a perceived vulnerability by floating the ball to the edge of their area for an onrushing Argentine player to strike, as opposed to placing it nearer Nigeria`s imposing defenders.


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