Argentina scored a 2-0 win against a tough Greek defense, and a 2-2 draw was enough for South Korea against Nigeria; both sides are through to the last 16 of the World Cup. Earlier, hosts South Africa were eliminated.
Lionel Messi (in blue) was well contained by marker Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Diego Maradona's men left it late to score against a resilient, hard-tackling Greek team, but secured their 1-0 lead through Bayern Munich defender Martin Demichelis after 77 minutes of play. Shortly before the final whistle, 37-year-old veteran substitute Martin Palermo grabbed another to seal the win.
Argentina, led by superstar playmaker Lionel Messi, have coasted through Group B, winning all three of their games. They will face the Group A runners-up Mexico in the next round.
The 2004 European Champions Greece played their trademark game, disciplined and defensive, but only rarely troubled Argentina going forward. German coach Otto Rehhagel's tactic of man-marking Lionel Messi was fairly effective, and largely contained perhaps the best player in the world today.
In Group B's other match, Nigeria and South Korea drew 2-2. Nigeria opened the scoring, before the Koreans came back to lead 2-1, and the African side eventually equalized from the penalty spot.
Nigeria secured their first points of the tournament with the result, while South Korea secured Group B's second spot in the last 16. The South will play Group A winners Uruguay next.
South Africa gave its supporters one last hurrah, if not qualification for the last 16
'Bafana Bafana' bow out on a high
Earlier on Monday, hosts South Africa were eliminated from the competition, despite their 2-1 win against France. The host nation delivered easily their best performance of the tournament, giving their fans a shock victory to cheer about at the end of their campaign.
South Africa stormed into a two goal lead in an impressive first half, although ten-man France managed to pull one back after the break. The fans of "Bafana Bafana" ("The Boys") cheered their team like heroes at the final whistle, even though the result wasn't quite good enough.
"I am proud of the boys," South Africa's Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said after the match. "They made this country proud."
Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and co had a miserable tournament
France, meanwhile, surely did not make their country proud in an ignominious tournament. Not only did they finish last in a group they were favorites to win, but they also created an unseemly side-show, as tensions between the players and the coaching staff came to a head.
Nevertheless, embattled coach Raymond Domenech, who dropped captain Patrice Evra for this match after a minor rebellion by the players over the weekend, said that "les Bleus" finally showed their true colors against the host nation.
"They showed real heart, real fight, real generosity and solidarity out there, it's what I was looking for," Domenech said after coaching his last match as boss of the French national side.
Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela scored the South African goals, while Florent Malouda later restored a modicum of pride for the French – scoring the side's only goal of the World Cup.
Luis Suarez's goal means Uruguay will probably avoid Argentina in the next round
Uruguay continued their impressive run in the competition with a 1-0 win against Mexico in Group A's other decisive match. Striker Luis Suarez scored the only goal of the game for Uruguay just before half-time, securing the team the top spot in the group.
"The important thing was to win and finish top of the group," fellow striker Diego Forlan said after the match, alluding to his country's desire to avoid Argentina in the next round.
Mexico, who have also impressed in the group stage, again played attractive football, but the team lacked firepower and finesse in the final third of the pitch, a problem that could haunt them in their tough fixture against Argentina.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Sarah Harman