While a large contingent of footy fans will have their minds firmly affixed on Thursday and USA vs Germany, there was still plenty to be found on this day as Messi, France, and Shaqiri all took to the pitch to continue the amazing pace of Brazil 2014. More teams facing elimination, some teams already eliminated, and a few teams looking to win their group, the day was primed for some breathtaking football (and some harsh tackling by Honduras).
Argentina vs Nigeria
While Argentina were entering into the last day of the group stage with knockout round qualification already obtained, a breathtaking start from Messi and co. showed that they would not be settling for anything less than winning the group. Sadly, for Argentina, Nigeria did not seem willing to let them walk away with Group F. With Nigeria knowing that a bad result in the other fixture (an Iranian victory by 2 goals or more) could result in them heading home, they answered every goal with one of their own. Despite Messi scoring the best World Cup goal of the Cup (so far), Nigeria continued to show that there is one major weakness in Argentina’s attempted march to the final: their defense. Despite the third goal coming from a corner for Argentina, and then the squad preventing the Super Eagles from bringing the game to 3-3, Argentina look extremely weak at the back. If Messi hopes to add the last prize that he can obtain, it will rest on the shoulders of his teammates in defense…and maybe some scoring help from some of the other attacking talents playing for Argentina. DVR worthy (at least to watch the highlights).
For Nigeria, they look much better than when they lost against the U.S. a few weeks ago, but still a long way off challenging for a deep run in Brazil. An improved performance from Odemwingie does bode well for the Super Eagles…
For Argentina, we already mentioned all they need to fix. Big defensive woes and only Di Maria and Messi seem to be playing at their talent levels…scary to think that they could still improve greatly.
Bosnia vs Iran
Another one of “those” World Cup games where one team has already been eliminated and another plays as if they had no hope to advance themselves. Dzeko shook a big monkey off his back by scoring, but every celebration was obviously muted with the knowledge that the end was nigh. Man of the Match Pjanic would finally make a massive gulf in possession pay right before the hour mark of the game, with Iran being massively wasteful with large chunks of their passing as they were found in offside positions 8 times during the contest (Bosnia only was called for offside once). Iran would finally score in this World Cup in the 82nd minute, but Bosnia would quash any idea of a comeback only one minute later to bring the score to 3-1 and seal the group’s fate. Only save this on your DVR if you are a fan of either team…an oddly disjointed 3-1 game…
For Bosnia, the result will provide a bit of a salve for the players but there will still be some definite disappointment as many believed they would progress from this group. Will they be able to replace outgoing players with similar talent as they move forward?
For Iran, their accomplishments actually may have them seeing their World Cup outing as a total success. Going toe-to-toe with a world power like Argentina, snagging a point from Nigeria, and scoring a World Cup goal will have the players feeling like they have certainly represented their country well.
Ecuador vs France
France are through no matter what, but a one goal victory from Ecuador could also push the Ecuadorians through. The failure from Ecuador in this game can be seen by the fact that they only managed two shots on target throughout ninety minutes. Factor in Antonio Valencia’s red card in the 50th minute, and the final match for Ecuador was nothing but a disappointment. For France, despite creating a host of chances, the changed line-up seemed to take the French squad a bit of getting used to. The biggest talking point is how hot/cold players from Manchester United have been at this tournament…despite most players giving a huge boost to the Red Devils chances next season, players like Valencia show that there will still be work to be done. Delete this from your DVR unless you revel in missed chances…
For Ecuador, they leave this tournament feeling like they were within touching distance of the knockout stage. It will also be tough for them to believe that they can bring an improved squad in 2018 in Russia and succeed outside of the Americas…
For France, despite qualification being snagged early, they will realize that there needs to be improvement from this performance. Still, 2010 has definitely been covered over by this 2014 squad and any further advancement will only be seen as icing on the cake.
Honduras vs Switzerland
Holy Shaqiri! Despite suffering through commentators that were convinced that the hat-trick man was called “Sat-siri, the Swiss and their star man looked as if they were finally moving in the right direction. While Honduras is not the best measuring stick (unless you are measuring how much a team fouls or how dirty a team plays), this scoreline does suggest that the Swiss are growing into this competition. While Switzerland’s defense had been exposed against France and with Honduras also making several presentable chances, the issue for this squad feels similar to the issues for Argentina. The Swiss defense also seems moments away from giving away a penalty as they were a different referee away from several called against them today (and the one they gave away against France). Honduras certainly had not played in a manner befitting a team going to the knockout round, but Switzerland’s first two performances will have them feeling a bit lucky to progress. Worth the time to watch to see Shaqiri work some magic (and to realize how physically Honduras likes to play…or dirty, however you look at it).
For Honduras, nobody knew what to expect from them coming into qualification (outside of them being physical) and nobody knows what to expect from them going forward (except for them being physical). Sadly, the USMNT will see lots of them over the next few years.
For Switzerland, the momentum might be swinging in their favor at the perfect time. They need more goalscoring options and some defensive improvement, but they feel like a team built for knockout soccer.
While we would not have expected any France match to provide us with a game where there were not any goals, the other matches certainly picked up the slack. Messi seems like a player on a mission, which will only add fuel to anyone still dumb enough to wander into a Messi vs Ronaldo fire, but the Argentine master will need some help if they are to go very far. While some great goals were scored, it does seem like today got sandwiched in between Suarez issues and USA/Germany in such a way that it did not get the proper attention. Still, we loved it…