The soaring temperatures that struck Germany during the first week of the World Cup may have ended on Friday but Argentina showed no intention of turning down the heat with a sublime display and 6-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro.
With their brilliant, inspired and fluid attacking and solid defence, Argentina sent out a message to the other 31 teams here that they are the side to beat with the biggest and most convincing win of the competition so far.
They underlined the point in the 31st minute with one of the most beautiful goals in World Cup history, the culmination of 24 passes. The move had a slow build-up as the South Americans showed that keeping possession is one of their strengths. Suddenly, it burst into life on the left-hand side as Javier Saviola played a neat one-two with Juan Riquelme before passing to Esteban Cambiasso. Laying the ball off to Hernan Crespo, Cambiasso received it back through a wonderful backheel before blasting home. And that was just the second of six high-quality goals.
Argentina played with a rhythm to match the raucous drums of their supporters. Riquelme pulled the strings, but every other attacking player was continually involved.
Their movement and desire for the ball stood in stark contrast to the supposedly more offensive-minded Brazil?s performance in the laboured win against Croatia. It would be hard to argue that the hapless Serbs constituted weak opposition ? they were just outclassed.
What is perhaps even more scary for other teams is that at 3-0 the Argentina manager Jos? Pekerman had the luxury of bringing Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi off the bench, two players good enough to grace any side here.
They made an immediate impact, with Messi setting up the fourth and scoring the sixth, and Tevez hitting the fifth.
Argentina?s defence was barely tested but looked solid enough. In particular, goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri looked impressive when called upon, making a good save from Savo Milosevic early in the second half and appearing strong under crosses.
In many ways, Argentina looked like they were using Brazil?s habit of holding on to possession for long periods before producing a spark of inspiration to unlock the opposition defence.
The South Americans started the game as they had against Ivory Coast, who they defeated in their opening match. They were 1-0 up after six minutes when Maxi Rodriguez rounded off a brilliant move by scoring from Saviola?s incisive pass. Cambiasso?s sublime goal followed before Saviola exploited poor defending by Mladen Krstajic to shoot, with the rebound slotted home by Rodriguez.
Serbia started the second half slightly more brightly but were soon on the back foot again after a red card for Mateja Kezman following a late double-footed tackle.
The two Argentina substitutions then made an immediate impact, with Messi first picking out Crespo before Tevez ended a mazy run by breaking through two tackles to make it five. Messi underscored the brilliance of their forwards by powering home from a tight angle in the final minutes.
Argentina?s impressive start may have the weight of history against them ? the last team to win the World Cup after such a good start was West Germany in 1990 with 4-1 and 5-1 victories ? but it would be foolhardy
to bet against them.
After the round of first games, fans from around the world voted them the best team and there is little chance of that changing after this performance.