6-0: Argentina, not Federer

Argentina are working up a head of steam which must worry the great and the good in Germany. Serbia and Montenegro were blown away in spite of arriving as one of the most difficult teams to beat in Europe during the qualifying campaign, writes Ken Gaunt.

Diego Maradona smiled for the cameras — and little wonder as Argentina cruised into the last 16 of the World Cup. The South Americans played a brand of football against Serbia and Montenegro in Gelsenkirchen to the magician's liking — all the goals were of the highest quality — to leave Maradona in ecstasy in the stands. Argentina are working up a head of steam which must worry the great and the good in Germany. Serbia and Montenegro were blown away in spite of arriving in Germany as one of the most difficult teams to beat in Europe during the qualifying campaign. Serbia and Montenegro were forced to make a late change in defence with Milan Dudic replacing Ivica Dragutinovic. They were rocked back on their heels, though, in the fifth minute when Argentina opened the scoring with a superb goal.

Javier Saviola threaded the ball through to Maxi Rodriguez and he found the corner with a shot on the run. It was the kind of quality you would expect from one of football's leading nations and served as a warning shot to Serbia and Montenegro.

The South Americans kept up the pace and Juan Pablo Sorin latched on to a free-kick from Juan Roman Riquelme but sent his effort wide. Argentina were forced to make a change in the 17th minute when Esteban Cambiasso replaced Gonzalez, who appeared to have pulled a muscle.

It may have been a big day for Savo Milosevic, winning his 100th cap, but he was being deprived of any decent service early on.

Midfielder Ognjen Koroman was certainly up for the challenge and he left Rodriquez on the floor with a dig at his heels. Riquelme showed good skill to cut inside after 28 minutes but his effort failed to trouble the goalkeeper.

Argentina extended their lead in the 31st minute and again the goal was fashioned out of nothing.

Hernan Crespo showed marvellous vision to backheel the ball in a tight area and Cambiasso, who surged forward, provided the finish to a move of 24 passes.

Serbia and Montenegro were stunned and their opponents looked on a different level. Chelsea striker Crespo was then handed a yellow card by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti for finding the net after the whistle had sounded.

But the party for the South Americans continued with Rodriguez scoring his second goal at the far post in the 41st minute after Saviola had supplied the cross.

Serbia and Montenegro almost pulled a goal back at the start of the second half, but goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri got a hand to Milosevic's effort and turned it around the post.

Portsmouth's Koroman was replaced in the 49th minute, with Danijel Ljuboja getting a run-out. It was business as usual though two minutes later with Crespo stinging the goalkeeper's fingers with a shot from outside the area, before Sorin showed how confident he was with a clever flick which released Saviola.

It was damage limitation now for Ilija Petkovic's team, who came to Germany with a proud defensive record in qualifying. But their misery continued in the 65th minute when former Chelsea forward Mateja Kezman was sent off after lunging at Javier Mascherano.

Kezman looked non-plussed but his anger just summed up his team's frustration.

Argentina were in the comfort zone and some of their interplay in the middle of the park had to be admired. Lionel Messi was given a great ovation when he took his bow in the 75th minute as replacement for Rodriguez. The 18-year-old Barcelona winger's progress has been hampered by a thigh injury but he made an immediate impact.

Messi supplied the cross in the 78th minute and Crespo steered the ball home at the back post before Carlos Tevez added a fifth six minutes later. Messi himself completed the rout two minutes from time to put the seal on a breathtaking display from Argentina.

Messi has sent out a message to the rest of the world he is back in business. He looked full of running when he came on and is thrilled to be involved at this level. "I am happy because we played well," he told Argentina's Canal 13. "I wanted to play some minutes and am pleased to have scored.

"The players who are on the bench want to play, like me. The people want to see us. We knew that Serbia and Montenegro would be difficult but we looked like the winners of the game right from the start. I was pleased with our form today and against Ivory Coast as we are scoring a lot of goals."

Coach Jose Pekerman said: "It is a joy for us to see Lionel back as he is capable of doing special things."

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