JOHANNESBURG, June 17- Diego Maradona's Argentina look certainties for a place in the last 16 of the World Cup after their 4-1 Group B victory over South Korea on Thursday as Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick.Maradona’s side will be sure of a place in the knock-out phase later on Thursday if Group B rivals Greece and Nigeria draw in Bloemfontein.
Midfield maestro Lionel Messi was superb throughout as Argentina raced into a 2-0 first-half lead thanks to a header from Higuain and an own-goal by Korea’s Park Chu-Young.
Monaco forward Park turned a free-kick by Messi into his own net on 17 minutes before Higuain’s header extended the South American giants lead with his first goal on 33 minutes.
South Korea’s Lee Chung-Yong gave his side hope with a goal at the end of the first half to make it 2-1, but Messi-inspired Argentina were not to be denied.
Higuain made sure of the win with two goals in four minutes late in the second-half in front of a 82,174-strong crowd at Soccer City.
Argentina meant business from the kick-off and took the lead when Messi’s free-kick deflected off Park’s legs who could only watch in horror as the ball flew over the line.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona then replaced the limping Walter Samuel with AS Roma’s Nicolas Burdisso on 23 minutes.
Argentina extended the lead when Maxi Rodriguez’s cross was flicked on by Burdisso for Higuain to beat Korean ‘keeper Jung Sung-Ryong on 33 minutes, before Lee’s late effort gave the South Koreans hope for the second-half.
Jung pulled off two great saves in quick succession early in the half: first from Higuain at close-quarters after a good break from Angel Di Maria, a constant threat to the Korean defence, then Tevez after a long-range shot.
The only slight blemish on the Argentinians day was Jonas Gutierrrez second booking of the tournament which will see the Newcastle United star miss the next game with Greece.
Higuain settled the contest after Messi beat two defenders in the box and squared for the Real forward to fire into an empty net on 76 minutes while Messi again played a hand in the fourth goal on 80 minutes to seal the win.
Man-of-the-match Higuain jogged off in the 82nd minute to loud applause from the Argentina fans, but the 22-year-old’s reply in kind could well have been for midfield maestro Messi who created his goals.