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Higuain's hat trick lifts Argentina past South Korea

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, left, celebrates after scoring a

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, left, celebrates after scoring a goal against South Korea at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa. (June 17, 2010) Credit: AP

Leo Messi is still scoreless at the 2010 World Cup, but Gonzalo Higuain certainly isn't and the Argentines are all but assured a spot in the Round of 16.

Argentina, led by Higuain's three goals, defeated South Korea 4-1 today Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg to secure six points in its first two matches and a healthy goal differential entering its final match Tuesday against Greece.

South Korea, which owns three points from its opening win, faces Nigeria Tuesday as well.

PHOTOS: 2010 World Cup

Argentina's vaunted attack was still scoreless 120 minutes into the World Cup until Higuain's well-placed header in the 33rd minute. Of course, the Argentines had already scored two tournament goals, but it was defender Gabriel Heinz and an own goal that accounted for each. Higuain waited on the back post, received a clever flick-on from Javier Maschereno and directed it inside the post for a 2-0 lead. Argentina's first goal came on a misplay in the box by South Korea's Park Chu-Young.

Before halftime, Argentina center back Martin Demichelis was unaware of his surroundings when he gathered a ball on top of his own box in the waning minutes. Lee Chung-Yong took advantage, picked his pocket and finished the job to give the South Koreans a much-needed boost heading into halftime.

In the second half, South Korea missed a golden opportunity in the 58th minute when Yeom Ki-Hun got a beautiful pass on the right side of the box within 15 yards of goal. Ki-Hun made the questionable decision of striking the ball with the outside of his foot toward the near post, and it went about three feet wide. Perhaps Ki-Hun felt rushed, but that was an equalizer waiting to happen that came and went.

PHOTOS: Higuain, Messi and all the star players of the 2010 World Cup

Argentina did all the rest. Higuain's second goal came in the 76th minute when he tapped in Messi's miss. Messi streaked into the box and got off two shots, the second of which nicked off the near post and across the goal line. Higuain could've hit it in blindfolded. His final goal came in the 80th minute on another header off a cross from Sergio Aguero.

The five goals scored was a welcome sight for World Cup fans, who have been craving more than the 1.65 goals per game we've seen entering today. Throughout the first six days of the tournament, there were five total goals scored in four of the days. We appear set to break that mark today.

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