Argentina produced the performance of the tournament when they thrashed Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 in Gelsenkirchen.
It was a magnificent, almost flawless display by the South American side and one that will send shivers down the spine of their World Cup rivals. They now look the team to beat.
Serbs suffered a blow in the warm up with the withdrawal of Dragutinovic. He was replaced by Dudic.
Argentina took the lead after just six minutes when a clever Saviola pass found Maxi Rodriguez bursting in to the box and he finished with a crisp drive past Jevric. The goal showed Argentina at their best, intelligent movement off the ball combined with precise passing by the man in possession.
Jose Pekerman was forced into a reshuffle when Gonzalez was carried off on 15 minutes. Cambiasso, the man who he had replaced from the opening game, came on as a substitute.
Both teams were playing with pace and enterprise although in the early exchanges Argentina looked the more dangerous side.
Their early domination was rewarded with a wonderful second goal on 31 minutes. A scintillating piece of interplay found Crespo in the box and his backheel reached the substitute Cambiasso who rifled home from 15 yards. There may be more spectacular finishes during the World Cup but there will be few better goals in this year’s finals.
Crespo was unlucky not to add a third five minutes later when he beat the offside trap before chipping over Jevric. The assistant referee raised his flag, although TV replays confirmed that the striker was onside.
The third was not long in coming. Saviola dispossessed the defender near the corner flag, advanced on goal and although his goal-bound shot was saved by the keeper the ball was deflected to Maxi who tucked away the rebound off the post.
The half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for dejected Serbs. Although they hadn’t performed as badly as the scoreline suggested, they had been swept away by a team playing at the top of their game.
There was no let up for the Serbs after the break as Argentina continued to strut their stuff. Crespo almost added his name to the score sheet when he sent in a fizzing shot which Jevric was unable to hold.
The Serbs’ frustration eventually got the better of them and to compound their woes Kezman was shown a straight red card for a wild challenge on Mascherano.
With the game effectively won, Argentina were content play keep ball for the remainder of the game. Occasionally they would increase the tempo and threaten the Serbs goal, but on the whole they looked happy to conserve energy for the bigger challenges that lie in wait.
With Argentina in control, Lionel Messi made his eagerly-awaited World Cup debut – coming on as a substitute for Maxi. The 18-year-old wasted no time in making an impact when he collected the ball from a quickly taken free-kick, advanced into the penalty area and squared for Crespo to tap in at the far post.
A fifth goal was not long in coming when substitute Tevez scored a wonderful solo effort, skipping past two defenders before calmly stroking the ball past Jevric.
The rout was completed in the closing minutes when Messi was set free in the box and he placed a firm shot past Jevric.
Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Burdisso, Ayala, Heinze, Sorin, Maxi, Mascherano, Gonzalez, Riquelme, Saviola, Crespo.
Subs used: Cambiasso 16 (for Gonzalez), Tevez (for Saviola), Messi (for Maxi).
Bookings: Crespo 36.
Serbia & Montenegro: Jevric, Duljaj, Gavrancic, Krstajic, Dudic, Koroman, Stankovic, Nadj, Predrag Djordjevic, Kezman, Milosevic.
Subs used: Ergic 45, (for Nadj), Ljuboja 49 (for Koroman) Vukic 69 (for Milosevic).
Bookings: Koroman 7, Nadj 27, Krstajic 42.
Sent-off: Kezman 64.
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).
Argentina: Maxi Rodriguez 6, 41, Cambiasso 31, Crespo 78, Tevez 84, Messi 88.