Greece entered their final group-stage match against Argentina needing a win, and, depending on the result of the Nigeria-South Korea match, they needed to win by more than a few goals.
Neither came true as Argentine steamrolled them on the way to a 2-0 win at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. A 75th-minute goal from Martín Demichelis was enough to earn Diego Maradona’s side the three points, while 36-year-old striker Martín Palermo added an insurance goal in the 89th minute.
With the win, Argentina advance to the knockout stage, undefeated atop the Group B standings. They will face Mexico, who finished second in Group A, on Saturday in the round of 16.
Argentina dominated the match from the beginning, prodded on by a very active Sergio Aguero, who enjoyed his first World Cup start. La Albiceleste enjoyed 81% of the possession and an overwhelming advantage in scoring opportunities—22-7 in shots, 10-3 in shots on goal.
But Argentina had trouble breaking through, thanks to the Greeks’ stiff defense and a dynamic performance from goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas.
Finally, in the 75th minute, Demichelis was the man on the spot to slam home the winner. A deflected corner kick fell nicely to the much-maligned Bayern Munich defender and he calmly volleyed in from about 5 yards.
In the 86th minute, Lionel Messi, who wore the captain’s armband for the match, tricked his way through the defense and slammed a left-footed shot off the post. He has still yet to score in this World Cup.
Palermo, the Boca Juniors legend who was left out of the Argentine team for a decade until Maradona recalled him, put home a rebound in the 89th minute. He was in the right place at the right time after Messi’s stinger from 18 yards was knocked down by Tzorvas.
ARG: Demichelis 75’, Palermo 89’
Greece -- Alexandros Tzorvas; Avraam Papadopoulos, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Vangelis Moras, Vasilis Torosidis (Christos Patsatzoglou 55’); Loukas Vyntra, Giorgos Karagounis (Nikos Spyropoulos 46’), Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kostas Katsouranis (Sotiris Ninis 55’), Alexandros Tziolis; Georgios Samaras
Argentina -- Sergio Romero; Nicolás Burdisso, Martín Demichelis, Clemente Rodríguez, Nicolás Otamendi; Juan Sebastián Verón, Mario Bolatti, Maxi Rodríguez (Angel di Maria 63’); Sergio Agüero (Javier Pastore 77’), Diego Milito (Martín Palermo 80’), Lionel Mess