Gonzalo Higuain stole the headlines on Day 7 in South Africa by scoring the first FIFA World Cup™ hat-trick since 2002 as Argentina's multi-talented attack dazzled against Korea Republic. Diego Maradona's Albiceleste had to share the limelight, though, with Mexico, winners against 2006 runners-up France, and a Greece side who scored their first FIFA World Cup goals in defeating Nigeria.
Argentina striking icon Gabriel Batistuta was in Johannesburg to see Higuain join him in the record books with his treble for the South Americans at Soccer City. The Real Madrid forward became only the third man – after Guillermo Stabile and 'Batigol' himself – to hit three on the world stage for La Albiceleste. With Carlos Tevez buzzing about dangerously and Lionel Messi weaving his magic, Higuain can leave the fancy stuff to others and just get on with his job of poaching goals.
Ater Argentina had received the gift of a Park Chu-Young own goal, Higuain did just that with three close-range strikes, two with his head, the other a tap-in after Messi's shot rebounded to him off a post. Argentina have all but qualified from Group B after this second victory and the only good news for their future opponents is that the South Koreans found a hole or two in their defence – Martin Demechelis's slip allowed Lee Chung-Yong a goal and the Asians would have drawn level at 2-2 had Yeom Ki-Hun not sent a golden opportunity into the side-netting.
The question of which France we would see in South Africa – the team which reached the Final four years ago or that which flopped at UEFA EURO 2008 – appears to have been answered after Raymond Domenech's side slumped to a first-ever loss to Mexico in Polokwane. Javier Aguirre's enterprising outfit joined Uruguay on four points at the Group A summit thanks to second-half strikes from substitutes Javier Hernandez, who sprang the France offside trap to tuck away the first, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, a late penalty. Blanco's lengthy run-up belied his age – at 37 years and 151 days, he became the third oldest scorer in FIFA World Cup history. It will now take a small miracle for a still goalless France side to revive their campaign in their final group fixture against South Africa.
Finally, after South Africa's loss yesterday, another African side saw their hopes dented after Nigeria stumbled to defeat against a Greece side finally able to celebrate a first finals win at the fifth attempt. It was a result that left the Super Eagles bottom of Group B while lifting Otto Rehhagel's Greeks level with Korea Republic on three points. Nigeria had gone ahead at the Free State Stadium through a Kalu Uche free-kick, but the match turned when Sani Keita had a rush of blood to the head and kicked out at Vasileios Torosidis, leaving his side a man short. Greece took full advantage, equalising on the stroke of the interval through Dimitrios Salpingidis.
That his shot took a big deflection off Lukman Haruna in no way diminished the celebrations – after all, it was his country’s first FIFA World Cup goal. Greece's winner was cruel on goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who, as against Argentina, made some spectacular stops only to spill Alexandros Tziolis's drive, allowing Torosidis to score. If the 2004 European champions can sleep more easily tonight, the same cannot be said of Nigeria's Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, who missed an open goal at 1-1.
Goal of the day
Argentina 4-1 Korea Republic, Gonzalo Higuain, 80 mins: Messi dinked a lovely ball over the South Korean back line to Sergio Aguero, who floated a first-time cross with the outside of his right foot for Higuain to nod his third goal past Jung Sung-Ryong – the competition’s first hat-trick since Pauleta’s for Portugal eight years ago.
One to remember
Mexico forward Hernandez is not the first member of his family to score against France in the FIFA World Cup – he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Tomas Balcazar, who struck Mexico's second goal in a 3-2 first-round loss to Les Bleus at the 1954 finals in Switzerland. Revenge at last for Grandad...
Quote of the day
"I prefer women. I am dating Veronica, she is 31 years old, she is blonde, she is beautiful," Maradona responds to a question in the post-match press conference about his habit of embracing his Argentina players.
Stat of the day
404 – The number of minutes it took Greece to score their first FIFA World Cup finals goal.