Argentina have been hunting high and low for a dependable finisher since Gabriel Batistuta retired from the game. Hernan Crespo made a decent stab at the job at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ without being able to fill fully the void left by Batigol, who found the net at three successive finals between 1994 and 2002. Yet if Gonzalo Higuain's clinical three-goal performance in his side's 4-1 defeat of Korea Republic is anything to go by, the long wait for a successor would finally appear to be over.
El Pipita made up for his faulty finishing against Nigeria last weekend by hitting the first FIFA World Cup hat-trick by an Argentinian since Batistuta put three past Jamaica in France 12 years ago. "I'm delighted to have matched what Bati did at that World Cup," said the new leading goalscorer at South Africa 2010. "It's a wonderful feeling to have hit three goals in a tournament like this."
Scoring twice with his head, either side of a close-range tap-in, the River Plate youth product was in the right place at the right time at Ellis Park. "[Diego] Maradona congratulated me and said he knew the goals would come," added the man of the moment. "I wasn't feeling any pressure at not having scored before but I was looking on it as a challenge. And if we carry on like this, I reckon we can win the title. The important thing is for the team to keep growing in confidence. I'm sharing a room with Diego Milito, who's just won the lot in Europe and is giving me lots of really useful advice. That shows you how good things are with us right now."
Brimming with confidence
There was plenty of praise coming Higuain's way from team-mate Lionel Messi after the final whistle. "I'm very happy for him," he said. "Today he put away all the chances he couldn't quite convert against Nigeria. It's great for him on a personal level and great for the team too. It's absolutely vital to have a goalscorer like him in this kind of competition."
"I told him in the dressing room that he did what all goalscorers do, he just waited in the right place. It's as easy as that," joked goalkeeper Sergio Romero. "Seriously though, it's fantastic to have someone like him. He can win games for you at any time." It was not only Higuain's colleagues offering praise. Korea Republic right-back Beom Seok-Oh gave credit where it was due after his side's defeat. "I can’t say I'm surprised by Higuain's performance. He's been one of the best strikers in the world this season and unfortunately for us it was our turn to suffer today.” If the Real Madrid man keeps his eye in, Greece could be the next to suffer next Tuesday.