Argentina power into last-16 after beating Greece

Greece 0 Argentina 2

Defender Martin Demichelis and substitute Martin Palermo succeeded where Argentina's multi-talented strikeforce had failed as they scored the goals to break Greece's resilience and end their World Cup hopes at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Bayern Munich centre-back Demichelis fired home from close range in the 77th minute after his header from Lionel Messi's corner bounced back off team-mate Diego Milito.



Boca Juniors striker Palermo tapped in the rebound from Lionel Messi's shot to complete the victory a minute from time.



It sent Argentina into the knockout phase to face Mexico full of confidence on the back of three successive wins as Greece's best defensive efforts ultimately proved to be in vain.



South Korea's 2-2 draw with Nigeria put them through as Group B runners-up.



For long periods Diego Maradona's side were frustrated by Greece, for whom defending is what they do best - having used the tactic to become surprise European champions in 2004.



However, what Otto Rehhagel's side desperately needed more than anything was a goal and despite the unstinting efforts of Celtic striker Georgios Samaras - who at times appeared to be the one in a 10-1 formation - they just did not threaten enough.



Argentina, by contrast, did not really need to exert themselves as they were virtually guaranteed to progress as group winners before the match kicked off.



Messi captained the side after Maradona made seven changes from victory over South Korea but found himself closely marked throughout.



He had one early trademark run towards the penalty area which was halted by Sokratis Papastathopoulos but otherwise was effectively shackled throughout.



Sergio Aguero's first sight of goal saw the busy Alexandros Tzorvas palm his shot away for a corner in the 18th minute and the goalkeeper then immediately had to tip over Juan Sebastian Veron's 30-yard strike.



Tzorvas almost undid all Greece's hard work when he spilled Diego Milito's low cross into the path of Aguero but Loukas Vyntra charged down his shot at the far post.



But he redeemed himself in first-half added time when he saved from Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez and Messi in quick succession.



Three minutes into the second half Greece almost snatched the lead when Samaras beat Demichelis to another long ball out of defence and raced into the penalty area but drove wide of far post with his left foot - Greece's first shot of the match.



But injuries were not kind to Rehhagel's side as they lost Georgios Karagounis, Konstantinos Katsouranis and Vasileios Torosidis all within 10 minutes of the restart.



Argentina pressed on regardless with Milito inches from heading in a cross from left-back Clemente Rodriguez, who himself hit a dipping shot just wide.



In the 68th minute Messi's long-range free-kick brought another save out of Tzorvas and from the resulting corner the ball dropped to defensive midfielder Mario Bolatti but he shot straight at the goalkeeper from six yards.



It was 24 years to the day since Maradona scored his infamous Hand of God goal against England in the quarter-finals of 1986 Mexico World Cup - Argentina's last triumph at this tournament - and the frustrated players might have felt like indulging in similar skulduggery themselves.



But Demichelis saved anyone the embarrassment by drilling into the roof of the net with 13 minutes to go.



Things opened up after that and Messi smashed a left-footed shot off the post having weaved his way into the penalty area.



His next effort was more productive as Tzorvas parried his strike into the path of the 36-year-old Palermo who took full advantage.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor