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Sports

Mexico overcome France as Greece and Argentina post wins

Mexico beat France 2-0 in their Group A clash at the World Cup in South Africa. Earlier, Greece pulled off a spirited comeback against a 10-man Nigeria, while Argentina dominated South Korea 4-1.

Mexico's Javier Hernandez, left, jumps over France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

Mexico ran away with the match in the second half

France went down 2-0 to Mexico in their Group A World Cup clash at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. The win moves the North Americans up to four points, equal with Uruguay. France's World Cup now hangs on a knife-edge as they languish on one point from two games.

The game got off at a frenetic pace, with both sides threatening the opposition goal. Mexico's Carlos Salcido made a good run down the left in the 26th minute turning in towards the box to pass French defender William Gallas. His shot was hard and on target, but French goalie Hugo Lloris had his angles right and easily palmed the ball away. The teams went into the sheds at halftime locked at 0-0.

It took nearly 10 minutes for either team to get a shot on target after the break, with Florent Malouda firing a firm ball on target from just inside the box, though the Mexican goalie, Oscar Perez, saw to it easily, tipping it over the crossbar.

Mexico brought on their 37-year-old veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the 61st minute in an effort to turn the tide, and it seemed to have paid off two minutes later when they took the lead after substitute Javier Hernandez beat France's offside trap.

Hernandez, who has just signed with Manchester United to become their first Mexican player, was the recipient of a long ball straight down the park from Rafael Marquez. He did well to control the pass, round Lloris and slot the ball into the empty net.

The Mexicans' second goal came 11 minutes from fulltime after Pablo Barrera was fouled in the box by a sliding Eric Abidal. Blanco's resultant penalty kick was hit low and into the left corner - too well-placed for Lloris to get a hand to it.

If France is to have any hope of staying alive in the tournament beyond the group stages they must now beat South Africa in their final Group A game and hope that Mexico and Uruguay don't draw. Even then, it would come down to goal difference.

Greece' s first win

Nigeria's Taye Taiwo, right, and Greece's Dimitris Salpingidis vie for the ball

Nigeria looked the better team in the opening stages

In Thursday's afternoon match, former European champions Greece came from a goal down to beat a 10-man Nigeria 2-1 in the second Group B match of the day.

Nigeria opened the scoring in the 15th minute from a free kick by Almeria midfielder Kalu Uche from well outside the box.

The Greek defense should have easily cleared the intended cross, but instead it coasted in through both teams’ players assembled in front of the Greek goal, took a bounce and went in unchallenged by Greek goalie Alexandros Tzorvas.

The game was turned on its head in the 33rd minute, however, when Nigerian midfielder Sani Kaita was shown a red card for lashing out with his foot at Greek defender Vasileios Torosidis as he was trying to retrieve the ball.

In the 44th minute Greece pulled even after a Dimitrios Salpingidis shot from 20-meters out deflected off a Nigerian defender and into the far corner.

Greece started the second half with gusto, apparently encouraged by their one-man advantage.

The game see-sawed until the 71st minute, when Greece finally found their second goal after a goalkeeping error by Enyeama, who, until this point, was having a good game between the sticks.

A cleared ball fell 20 meters from goal to Greek midfielder Alexandros Tziolis, who fired a low shot through the Nigerian defense. Enyeama looked to have it covered but he was unable to keep hold of the ball and it bobbled in front of goal for Torosidis to toe-poke it in.

The loss leaves Nigeria with no points from two games, while the Greeks move to third place, equal with South Korea on three points.

Argentine dominance

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, competes for the ball with South Korea's Yeom Ki-hun, left

The South Koreans were unable to contain Messi

In Thursday’s early game, Argentina scored a brace of goals on either side of half time to beat South Korea 4-1 in their Group B clash in Johannesburg.

The South Americans got on the scoreboard in the 17th minute after an own goal from forward Park Chu Young. The breakthrough came from a Lionel Messi free kick on the left, which was flicked on by Martin Demichelis and deflected into the net by Chu Young's knee.

Argentina's second goal, which came in the 33rd minute, resembled a training park maneuver. From another free kick on the left, Messi played the ball to Maxi Rodriguez, whose cross was flicked on by defender Nicolas Burdisso. Waiting at the back post was Argentina's Real Madrid forward man Gonzalo Higuain, who easily nodded the ball in at the right post.

Just as it looked as though Argentina would take a two-goal lead into halftime, South Korea struck a minute into injury time through Lee Chung Yong. Demichelis lost control of the ball deep in his own half, allowing Chung Yong to steal possession and slip the ball easily past Argentine goalie Sergio Romero.

The pace of the game slowed somewhat following the break, with both teams finding it hard to get a direct chance on goal.

However a moment of brilliance from Messi lit up the match when, in the 76th minute, he skipped past two defenders and surged into the box. His first shot was blocked by the legs of the Korean keeper, Jung Sung Ryong, but the ball went straight back to the Barcelona danger man, whose second shot ricocheted off the left post and rolled invitingly to Higuain, unmarked on the back post, for a simple tap in.

Higauin capped off his own great game in the 80th minute by bagging a third goal. By this point the South Koreans were struggling to contain the Argentines’ inventiveness with the ball. Messi put the ball into the path of 75th-minute substitute Kun Aguero, whose looping cross was headed in from close range by Higuain.

The goal finalized a thorough victory for the South Americans, whose superior goal difference has all but assured them a spot in the Round of 16 knockout phase.

Author: Darren Mara

Editor: Matt Hermann

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