Argentina's Gonzalo Pelliat (centre) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against South Korea in their Group B match at The Hague on Sunday. Argentina won 5-0. - EPA
THE HAGUE: Pan American champions Argentina are just one point away from qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time.
The South Americans sent South Korea crashing to a 5-0 defeat at the Kyocera Stadium on Sunday in Group B to take a big step towards the last four. They now lead the group with nine points, having a better goal difference than second-placed Holland who played winless South Africa later in the day.
Argentina, whose best finish was sixth in 1986 and 2002, are heavily favoured to beat South Africa in their last match on Tuesday to send Olympic champions Germany out of the semi-finals.
Gonzalo Pelliat, who netted all the goals in the 3-1 win over New Zealand on Saturday, scored another hat-trick on Sunday. He was on target in the fourth, seventh and 20th minutes. Lucas Villa (12th) and Guillermo Schickendantz (54) were the other scorers.
Earlier, Germany defeated New Zealand 5-3 to keep their slim semi-final hopes alive. The Germans have six points to move up to third in the six-team standings.
Florian Fuchs started the ball rolling for Germany with a second-minute goal. Martin Zwicker added the second in the 31st minute but the Kiwis managed to reduce the deficit in the through Andy Hayward in the 34th minute. A minute later, Christopher Zeller gave Germany a 3-1 first-half lead.
After the breather, Zwicker (40th) and Benedikt Furk (57th) added two more goals. The Kiwis fought on and were rewarded with two goals in the 67th and 70th minutes through Hayward.
German coach Markus Weise was upset to see his team concede two late goals.
“That’s something that we must look into. But I am pleased that we put our chances away. That might change our momentum,” said Weise.