Argentina produced the performance so far of the World Cup to soar into the second round in scintillating style with a 6-0 battering of Serbia & Montenegro on Friday in Group C.
Winger Maxi Rodriguez scored twice, Esteban Cambiasso and Hernan Crespo [ Images ] rounded off two other brilliant goals before substitutes Carlos Tevez [ Images ] and wonderkind Lionel Messi [ Images ] completed the demolition with super individual finishes.
"When the team pulls together like that you get results," Tevez told reporters with classic understatement. "It was really nice to see the combination play. It is an honour to play with so many great players."
Argentina went ahead with their first chance of the match after six minutes when Rodriguez fired home from the left after Javier Saviola, fed by Juan Pablo Sorin with a back heel on the left wing, steered a square ball into the box.
With playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme closely marked by Albert Nadj, creation came from all sectors of the Argentine side, notably in a superb second goal just past the hour, netted by substitute Cambiasso.
Argentina moved the ball about in the Serb half from wing to wing before Saviola fed Crespo who stepped over the ball and backheeled it for Cambiasso to fire into the roof of the net past a static Dragoslav Jevric.
Coach Jose Pekerman had been forced after only a quarter of an hour to revert to his starting line-up from Argentina's 2-1 win over Ivory Coast last weekend, bringing Cambiasso on when Luis Gonzalez, the only change in the line-up, looked like he pulled a muscle.
Rodriguez made it 3-0 before half-time when Saviola robbed the ball from Mladen Krstajic out on the right wing and ran into the box to shoot low. Jevric got a hand to the ball but it ran free for Rodriguez to tap in at the far post for his second.
Argentina brought on Tevez for Saviola and just past the hour Mateja Kezman was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Javier Mascherano [ Images ].
To great acclaim from a vast majority of Argentines in the capacity 52,000 crowd, Pekerman sent on Messi in the 74th minute for his World Cup debut.
With 12 minutes left he made his presence felt, breaking down the left and sending a low ball into the box for Crespo to tuck in.
If Serbia thought the agony was over they were cruelly mistaken.
First, with six minutes left, Tevez cut in from the left, nutmegged a defender before finishing calmly with a low shot home.
Then, with two minutes remaining, Messi brought the huge Argentine fan presence to their feet yet again with a low shot through the legs of the keeper after finding room in the area.