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SKorea must deal with Messi, Maradona

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Korea will see Argentina's best all-time player on the sideline and its current great on the field Thursday.

The first matchup of teams that won their opening games at the World Cup could see one clinch a spot in the second round. If the Koreans or Albiceleste win, and Greece-Nigeria draw, the 2-0 team is headed to the round of 16.

For South Korea to get there, it must stop Lionel Messi, who didn't score in Argentina's 1-0 victory over Nigeria, but was masterful controlling the ball and the match.

South Korea midfielder Park Ji-sung told Argentine newspaper Clarin this week that his team will be very wary of Messi.

"He's magic," Park said. "Argentina's one of the best teams in the world."

Park promised his team won't be intimidated against the two-time champions, who are coached by Diego Maradona, the brilliant player who led them to the 1986 title.

"As the team spirit is in upswing from the victory in the first match, we will face (Argentina) with confidence," Park said. "We believe we can produce good results if we play at the top of our game."

That's likely what it will take at Soccer City.

Back home, where he's enjoyed cult status since the '86 run, Maradona's been branded by some a liability as a coach. In the qualifiers, he used more than 100 players as he struggled to settle on a team and formation.

But Argentina's players have been heaping praise on Maradona this week — and are united in crediting him for Gabriel Heinze's diving header goal off a corner kick against Nigeria.

"Diego prepared us for a move like that," said Juan Sebastian Veron, who supplied the corner kick. "Luckily, it came off first time."

Unluckily for Argentina, Veron will be sidelined with a right calf injury.

"Even though we are losing a great player, Maxi Rodriguez will do a fantastic job," Maradona said of Veron's replacement.

The other match Thursday has France vs. Mexico in Group A at Polokwane.

For Greece or Nigeria to have much chance of advancing, a victory in Bloemfontein is a must. The Nigerians appear better prepared after nearly drawing with Argentina. Greece was no match for South Korea.

After the loss to the South Koreans, when Greece failed to stick to coach Otto Rehhagel's plans and conceded an early goal after it didn't clear a free kick, Rehhagel warned his players to follow his instructions or they'd be headed home.

"The team has to have a defensive capability in modern football," goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis said. "The whole team has to shut down spaces — so it's not an issue of individual players or the defense alone."

Nigeria has a more defensive presence than ever before, although it still likes to attack. Swedish coach Lars Lagerback has had an effect on the team's style.

"Lagerback is a very good coach, with a good track record at many big tournaments," Greece striker Dimitris Salpingidis said. "But I hope it'll be us smiling at the end of the game and not him."

Not many observers were smiling after France's dull 0-0 draw with Uruguay, and coach Raymond Domenech is under fire for the lack of offense. Of course, he was heavily criticized in 2006 for the early French performances and they wound up losing in the final to Italy.

Veteran Thierry Henry, a substitute in the opener, could start up front.

"Football is simple. You have to win matches, and once you win matches everyone is beautiful and the best friends in the world," Florent Malouda said. "As soon as results become more difficult, you see stories appearing left and right. The only answer is to win games and then everyone will be smiling at you."

They shouldn't expect many smiles from the Mexicans, whose roster is not filled with as many stars, but who have played better soccer recently than has France.

"They have their names, we have ours. But names don't play, men do," Mexico captain Gerardo Torrado said. "Nothing short of a win is good for us."