Messi, Forlan leading they way
JOHANNESBURG -- The knockout stages are in sight, and it's fitting that the two best individual performers so far at this World Cup are leading the field into the second round.
Uruguay, with 31-year-old Europa League winner Diego Forlan bossing the midfield, qualified top of Group A with a 1-0 win over runner-up Mexico at Rustenburg on Tuesday. Later on, Argentina made seven changes to their lineup from their previous outing in Group B, but retained captain Lionel Messi two days ahead of his 23rd birthday and it was enough for them to remain unbeaten and untied in a sweaty, physical 2-0 defeat of Greece.
Coupled with South Africa's 2-1 Group A win over France - enough to put the Bafana Bafana even on four points with Mexico, but their minus-2 goal differential doomed them against El Tri's plus-1 - and South Korea's 2-2 draw with Nigeria in Group B, the pairings for two of this weekend's round of 16 games are set. Uruguay, with two wins and a draw, will face South Korea Saturday at Port Elizabeth (10 a.m. ET), and on Sunday in Soweto's Soccer City Stadium, Argentina will meet Mexico (2:30 p.m. ET).
Uruguay's lone goal came when Edinson Cavani's long cross was headed in at the far post by Luis Suarez just before halftime. The two teams entered the match even on points on top of the group, but the game flowed nicely with both looking to avoid falling into the runner-up spot and a meeting with high-flying Argentina.
The key Group B matchup was for the runner-up spot behind Argentina, which was frustrated by Greece's defensive tactics before finally securing their third victory on late goals from Martin Demichelis and substitute Martin Palermo. Matched against South Korea, Nigeria was trying to avoid becoming the third African side to go out at the first hurdle after Cameroon and South Africa, the latter becoming the first host to ever fail to advance.
The Super Eagles grabbed a 1-0 lead early on courtesy of Kalu Uche, but South Korea came back through Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young before a Yakubu goal from the spot ensured a split of the points and the Koreans, with four points to Greece's three and Nigeria's single, earned the second spot in the group.