2014 FIFA World Cup: Day 14 Recap

Argentina head to the next round with high hopes

Messi cleans up; Iran can’t keep up 

Scoring isn’t easy in soccer, but you wouldn’t know that by watching Argentina and Nigeria rack up goals at a blistering pace during their match on Wednesday. Argentina had nothing to lose, having already locked up a berth in the round of 16, but Nigeria played their hearts out and got a helping hand from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who beat Iran to propel Nigeria into the next round. Lionel Messi was in peak form, staking his team to a lead just three minutes into the game—but Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa fired right back a minute later to even the score.  Messi waited until just before the halftime whistle to launch a free kick past a stunned Nigerian keeper for a 2-1 lead. Musa, not to be outdone, tied the game again two minutes into the second half after luring the Argentine keeper into diving one way and sending the ball in the other direction. Argentina wouldn’t be denied, though, scoring a deciding goal on a free kick that deflected off the shin of Marcos Rojo.

Iran may have given Argentina something to worry about in their game on Saturday, but they were hardly the same team against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday, failing to put up much of a fight in a 3-1 loss—disappointing, considering an Iran win would have put them into the next round while Bosnia and Herzegovina were already out of contention. Bosnian forward Edin Dzeko struck first, cashing in on a long, low shot that Iran’s keeper couldn’t get his hands on, while Miralem Pjanic doubled the score at the end of a series of deft passes. Iran landed their first goal of the tournament when Reza Ghoochannejad snuck past the Bosnian defense and collected a gimme goal the keeper had no chance of stopping. But their enthusiasm was short-lived—one minute later Bosnia and Herzegovina restored their two-goal lead off the boot of Avdija Vrsajevic. The result means neither team will advance, but Iran will be the most disappointed, having failed to win a single group game.

Swiss offense arrives just in time; France and Ecuador deadlocked

If you didn’t know Xherdan Shaqiri before, you do now. The pint-sized Swiss midfielder put on a scoring clinic in a game his team needed to win in order to advance, scoring all three goals in a fairly lopsided victory over Honduras. His first goal was one of the finest of the tournament: a distant cannon-blast of a shot that just nicked the underside of the bar. He followed that up by outracing a Honduran defender to create a two-on-one and shovelling a shot past the keeper, then capped his coming-out party by catching up to another odd-man rush and baiting the keeper into diving the wrong way on his shot. If he isn’t a fan favourite for his immense talent, Shaqiri should gain plenty of favour for doling out credit to his teammates for his second and third goals—it’s heartening to see a team’s best player behave selflessly even when he’s in the spotlight.

France has already done plenty of scoring, shooting to the top of Group E before their final group match against Ecuador. It was Ecuador who needed to score something to have a chance of advancing, and they just didn’t come through. In fact, it was Ecuador’s keeper, Alexander Dominguez, who was the star of his team on Wednesday, earning the title of man of the match. Dominguez made a tournament’s worth of incredible saves to keep his team in contention, but his team did little to support their hero. It’s a shame we won’t get to see more of his work in the knockout rounds.

With today’s results we now know that Messi and Shaqiri will go head-to-head as Argentina face Switzerland next Tuesday, while Nigeria will have their hands full with France in their game on Monday afternoon.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Tags: World Cup 2014

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