|Gonzalo Higuain wheels away after scoring his second goal to give his side a perfect six points from two games [GALLO/GETTY]
A masterclass in midfield creativity from Lionel Messi and a Gonzalo Higuain hat-trick overwhelmed South Korea as Argentina went on the brink of qualifying for the knockout rounds of World Cup 2010.
On this form, rich in attacking variety, Diego Maradona's team can go on to win Argentina's third world title while taking the luxury of possibly never giving Inter Milan's European Champions League final hero Diego Milito more than the odd bit-part.
When the Koreans packed their defence in the first quarter of the Group B match at Johannesburg's Soccer City, Argentina resolved the difficulty of getting through with set pieces to score their first two goals.
The Koreans, however well organised, were unable to cope with the flight of the free kicks Messi aimed into the middle of the box.
It seemed only a matter of time before Argentina would score from open play but Messi's brilliant run through the defence ended with a save and within minutes what might have been a 3-0 lead became 2-1 when South Korea pulled one back after a defensive blunder.
Qualification for the knockout phase might be almost in the bag but the stronger teams Argentina will face when they get there will pose a greater challenge to their rearguard though with each match Maradona is confident of improvement.
Where Maradona really draws heart is from the form of his fowards and particularly Messi, who ran brilliantly to bring the other attackers into the action, playing from deeper than against Nigeria on Saturday to help cover for the absence in central midfield of the injured Sebastian Veron.
"Korea were never capable of controlling us," said Maradona on Thursday.
"Of course, they scored but they were never able to dominate any part of the match.
"I have 23 top players and they are all ready to put on the jersey and work on the pitch, and that makes you happy and then you have peace of mind."
The only serious mistake came just before half time when defender Martin Demichelis, who otherwise had a fine game, failed to control a simple ball from which Korea scored.
Apart from that, Maradona's side played with a silky confidence and authority the Koreans could not handle.
Back in the game
After going 2-0 behind inside 33 minutes, Korea came back into the game with the last kick of the first half when Lee Chung-yong capitalised on Demichelis's mistake to make it 2-1.
In the 58th minute South Korea winger Yeom Ki-hun should have made it 2-2 when he fired wide with only goalkeeper Sergio Romero to beat after a swift Korean counter-attack.
That was their last chance, though, as Argentina tightened their grip on the game and powered through for victory.
The opening goal after 17 minutes was lucky as the ball bounced off Park Chu-young's shin like a bullet and into his own net giving Jung Sung-ryong no chance of saving.
Argentina doubled their lead when Higuain eluded the defence to pick his spot with a header 16 minutes later.
After Lee made it 2-1, Argentina were forced to dig deep to keep their noses in front and their reward duly came after 76 minutes when Higuain made it 3-1 with a tap-in.
It came after a brilliant run from Messi ended with his shot hitting the post and bouncing back to Higuain who poked it into an empty net from a metre out.
He completed his hat-trick with another header four minutes later – the first by an Argentine player in the World Cup since Gabriel Batistuta scored a treble against Jamaica in 1998.