While it feels like the World Cup has been going on for weeks now, it is an extremely exciting prospect to know that we are not even beyond the first round of fixtures. Day one, two, and three have all passed with loads of goals to talk about and a fair amount of drama. But, on day four, the goals continued to flow and many of the world’s biggest teams were on show. Would France begin their attempt to erase 2010? Would Messi add the final notch to his belt? Would Switzerland or Ecuador stake claim to “the non-France team to advance?” More goals…more fun…day four…
Ecuador vs Switzerland
It is still a bit odd to deal with Switzerland being the “seeded” team in the group, and Ecuador nearly proved how ridiculous FIFA seeding actually is (or, how much MORE ridiculous it is) by snagging a victory here. While Ecuador did start the game quickly, Switzerland felt more likely to score throughout the first 60 minutes of the game. Ecuador were able to snag the first goal of the game through their in-form man in Valencia (not THAT Valencia) and, despite some very presentable chances for both teams, the game entered half-time with the Ecuador up 1-0.
However, the second half proved a different affair for the Ecuadorians. A quick goal in the 48th minute to make it 1-1 started the talk of us seeing our very first draw of the entire tournament. The biggest talking point from the rest of the half would be how inexplicably poor Shaqiri was for most of this game, with his decisions coming too late and nearly always making a poor choice. Still, Switzerland pressed on as the game turned into a rousing contest of counter vs counter with Ecuador hoping to take full advantage of their pace. While Shaqiri struggled for the Swiss, Manchester United’s Valencia (THAT Valencia) completely started to shirk his defensive duties late in the half and the Swiss started to take advantage down his wing. In the last moments of the game, after a failed Ecuador counter that stranded a lot of players in their attacking half, Switzerland broke down Valencia’s weakened wing and scored off a fantastic play and finish to ensure that the tournament would continue without a draw. Heartbreak for Ecuador and pure jubilation for the Swiss (whose cheese hats are my favorite headgear of the tournament so far!).
France vs Honduras
No team has been more excited for this World Cup to start than France. The game did not start quite as positively as France would have hoped. For a team that will inevitably have every game littered with references to the 2010 debacle (I counted 6 references to some form of 2010 failure in the first 12 minutes), France certainly looked the superior squad from the first whistle, but Honduras proved difficult to break down. Also of note, the reckless tackles started flying in this game from the very beginning. While France would rattle the woodwork multiple times early, the game was relatively devoid of great chances for the first 40 minutes. Then, a rash challenge and a red card later, Benzema smashed a penalty home.
The second half started with the confidence that a goal and a man-advantage can give you, and we finally had a real reason for FIFA to show off their new toy in goal-line technology as Benzema took advantage of some pinballing around the net for France’s second goal. Honduras, despite the tech, were adamant that there was not a goal…but you will have to watch the sequence yourself in order to have your own opinion. While the game continued to be very chippy, it was difficult to ever call any Honduras attack truly threatening and France always seemed more likely to make it 3-0 than for it to become 2-1. Then, in the 72nd minute, Benzema wrapped up the points with a fantastic striker’s finish. For the remainder of the match, it merely felt like France wanted to prevent any injuries to their players. Still, Honduras may be packing early, but they will relish the role of a spoiler…and France took the first step to getting everyone to shut up (or, at least quiet down) about 2010.
Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovina
Only one question has been attached to this game since the last World Cup ended: Would Messi finally rise? While the diminutive Argentine has six more games to continue to prove himself to the doubters, every road begins somewhere. Bosnia would be hoping to spoil Argentina’s day, but the picture of the group is such that either team could easily survive without maximum points from this fixture. Argentina definitely had most of the possession, and, while Bosnia did occasionally look dangerous, the multitude of Argentina attacking options proved too much.
A squad that boasts Messi, Aguero, Higuain, and Di Maria going forward on the attack would require a Herculean defensive effort to completely close the door. Sadly for Bosnia, this World Cup has still not met the defense that could be described as such. An own-goal early in the match seemed to doom Bosnia from the start, but some Messi magic in the 65th minute proved the difference here. A move that looked identical to a move across the defense that Messi seems to execute all the time with Barcelona ended with a slight deflection and the ball in the back of the net. Despite Bosnia throwing all manner of attacking players on the pitch, it seemed like Argentina was still the more likely to grab another goal. But, after the game had broken into a counter-attack vs counter-attack style in the late stages, Bosnia snagged a late goal to give Argentine hearts a bit of worry. Still, Argentina will only think of the three points gained and a first step towards hopeful glory.
We STILL not seen a draw and the goals are still coming at a rapid-fire pace, making this a fantastic World Cup for any neutral. However, any fan of great defense will still be waiting for a game that they can enjoy. While there have been fantastic teams and players on the pitch so far, the World Cup has felt like a massive build up to the beginning of Group G. As far as “build-ups” go, this one has been fantastic! Here is hoping that the World Cup continues to leak goals…