World Cup: Recaps

Keeping up with Cup: Groups E & F

Leo Messi would like the world to know something: He is the best at soccer for both club and country.

Though he has undoubtedly been the best club player in the world for some time, Messi could not translate that success to the international level until this World Cup. Some may say he needed to grow up. Others may say it helps to have a national team coach that, y’know, can actually coach.

Argentina 3-2 Nigeria

Regardless, Messi just carried a shaky Argentina team through the group stage, despite losing Sergio Aguero to an inevitable injury.

It was hardly easy though. Messi struck in the third minute, blasting home a rebound. Ahmed Musa answered for Nigeria just a minute later, taking the wind out of Argentina’s sails. Messi grabbed the lead back in extra time of the first half with a curling free kick that turned Nigerian keeper Victor Enyeama into a befuddled mess.

But Musa evened things up in the 47th, forcing Argentina to dig deep once more and grab all three points through Marcos Rojo in the 50th.

It was a seesaw affair, but really it was a test of Argentina’s resilience. They are going to leak goals, but they have the offense to keep winning. It is a dangerous game the Argentinians are playing, and one that has rarely succeeded in recent World Cups. But thus far, this Brazilian affair has highlighted the brilliant tactical responses to 2010’s double-pivot midfields. With a bit more from Javier Mascherano and the midfield, Argentina may be well-positioned for a deep run.

Takeaways

Messi keeps it simple on free kicks. None of the knuckling of Ronaldo or Pirlo, just beautiful form and placement.

Angel Di Maria needs to be much more influential for Argentina to make noise, particularly if Aguero is seriously hurt. Higuain needs a creator behind him to be at his best.

Nigeria still go through with the loss. They have looked better every match, but hardly seem to be in the same league as France.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 Iran

Iran needed to win. They did not. Bosnia gets to leave their first World Cup with a win, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

The first goal was always going to be the crucial one in this match, and Edin Dzeko proved his class with a fine opener. He has endured criticism to have a fine year, and it was a deserved goal for his efforts.

Takeaways

Bosnia have the talent to be back in 2018. This experience could make them a much more dangerous side in Russia.

Iran could shape up to be their own version of Greece. They have the ability to play with an unnerving degree of discipline.

France 0-0 Ecuador

Nine is a lot of saves for one match. Alexander Dominguez was an octopus against France, getting all of his angles spot on. Don’t let the 0-0 scoreline fool you: This was an open match with 20 total shots on goal. Even after Antonio Valencia was sent off, Ecuador never took their foot off the gas. Despite Dominguez’s brilliance keeping them in the match, the winner never came.

France has looked like the most complete team in the Cup thus far. The injury to Mamadou Sakho will worry French fans, as he and Raphael Varane have looked like the most composed pairing in the tournament. In front of them, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye have combined well to support the creativity of Matthieu Valbuena, Antoine Griezmann, and Paul Pogba. This is a team to fear.

Takeaways

Ecuador gave it their all against a very good French opponent, truly an effort worth applauding.

Olivier Giroud has not looked capable of leading the line. If Benzema’s form drops, France could struggle.

Paul Pogba had a million and one chances against Ecuador. The wunderkind needs to put the finishing touch on his game to become the face of his country going forward.

Switzerland 3-0 Honduras

It took until the third match for Xherdan Shaqiri to arrive in Brazil. But boy did he ever.

A hat trick from the tiny dynamo propelled the Swiss into the knockout rounds, and likely propelled Shaqiri’s summer price tag through the roof. He has hardly gotten a look-in at Bayern Munich but a change in locations seems in the cards for the ultra-talented playmaker.

Takeaways

Shaqiri or bust for the Swiss, who barely snuck through the first two games with enough points to give themselves a chance of progressing.

Honduras is a bad, fouly team.

One Comment

  1. Old soccer coach says:

    In reference your assessment of France as the best combination of offense and defense so far revealed by the tournament, haven’t they been playing in a relatively easy group? All credit to Ecuador’s effort as you say, but they were the one CONMEBOL side not to surprise by failing to advance. The Swiss have an excellent – retiring – coach who gets the maximum available to him, but they have not made serious inroads in major tournaments. And you note well the elements of similarity between Iran and the current Greek team’s emphasis on defense and opportunism. What happens when France faces better competition?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

%d bloggers like this: