WORLD CUP DIARY: 16 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 16 June

Greetings fellow World Cup lovers – here’s your round-up of a fascinating fourth day in Brazil.

After a marathon Day Three, things were a bit simpler with just three games which all pitted Europeans against nations from the Americas.

Would they all go as expected? Would there be any controversy? Would any commentators end up trending on Twitter…?

 

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Switzerland v Ecuador

Get on with it, Gary!

Get on with it, Gary!

I’ll admit the travails of the previous day had taken their toll and when 5pm rolled around I was still enjoying the more sedate affair at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

With Gary Ballance inching towards a century at the ‘Home of Cricket’ it was split-screen ahoy, with Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men expected to win comfortably.

But by now I should know better, given the excitement this World Cup has thrown up and Ecuador looked on course for a win when the increasingly impressive Eder Valencia headed home from a corner.

Switzerland equalised through Admir Mehmadi and, despite controlling the second half, they just couldn’t grab the winner.

That is until injury time, three minutes which perhaps summed up why this World Cup has already been more exciting than South Africa 2010.

Maybe it was the boos from the crowd that urged the players on – as the stoppage time board went up, it looked like both sides were happy with a draw.

Ecuador’s decision to go for a broke cost them as they threw men forward, only to be dispossessed. The referee played a fantastic advantage to allow the Swiss counter-attack to continue and Haris Sefarovic swept home a dramatic winner. Some start to the day’s football – and still no draws!

 

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France v Honduras

OK, so Switzerland made hard work of it but surely France would have no such troubles? I was particularly looking forward to watching Paul Pogba, tipped by Hugh as one of his ‘Youngsters to Watch’ before the tournament began.

Honduras’ bully-boy ‘style’ will have been no surprise to anyone who watched their friendly against England and Pogba was lucky to escape with a yellow card when he reacted to Wilson Palacios’ attempt to carve a sculpture into his thigh by stud-marks.

Palacios, also booked, didn’t last much longer when he pushed Pogba over in the box and Karim Benzema made no mistake from the spot.

No controversy. Just a goal.

No controversy. Just a goal.

The second half was glorified shooting practice for France, with Honduras seemingly intent to maim as many Frenchman as possible.

But the real ‘star’ of the second period was BBC’s Jonathan Pearce, whose staggering inability to understand the basics of goal-line technology made him the only talking point on Twitter for the rest of the game.

Benzema’s second goal was a peach and France probably should have had more than three…but they’ll just be glad to have escaped without sustaining any serious casualties.

 

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Argentina v Bosnia & Herzegovina

The final game of the day saw the much-anticipated entrance of Argentina, and Lionel Messi, to the tournament at a fervent Maracana.

It didn’t take long for Messi to have an impact, with his third minute free kick turned in by Bosnian defender Saed Kolasinic.

Messi - makes defenders look stupid

Messi – makes defenders look stupid

But, where early goals often open up contests, this one prompted a somewhat turgid game with Bosnia unable to pierce the Argentine defence and Messi unable to break free.

The second half was more free-flowing and when Messi made it 2-0 with a trademark curler in the 65th minute, the game was all but over.

Vedad Ibisevic made history when he scored Bosnia’s first World Cup goal late on but they never truly threatened to equalise.

 

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VERDICT

Three results you could probably have predicted at the start of the day but none were exactly straightforward.

After being thrilled by the rapid attacking of sides like Netherlands and Colombia, this was a day when more measured build-up won the day for three sides hoping to go beyond the last 16.

Argentina were slightly disappointing in victory, though, but perhaps they are simply wary of peaking too soon.

 

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Karim Benzema FrancePlayer of the Day: KARIM BENZEMA – Inches away from a hat-trick and if he fires, France should be feared at this World Cup. Like England, there is little expectation, with this seen as a chance to finetune before a Euro 2016 which France host. But Benzema is in with a genuine chance of claiming the Golden Boot.

Player for Gray: EDER VALENCIA – Missing JJ? Me too. So why not replace him with the 32-year-old older brother of Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia? He’s never played in Europe, let alone England, but he’s impressed me against England and Switzerland.

 

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TODAY’S FIXTURES

GROUP F – Iran v Nigeria (8pm, BBC)

GROUP G – Germany v Portugal (5pm, ITV); Ghana v USA (11pm, BBC)

 

TODAY’S TIPS

The game of the day is the early kick-off in Salvador but even a supposedly ‘100% fit’ Cristiano Ronaldo may struggle to make an impact against an excellent Germany. Coral will give you evens on an expected German victory.

The other two games are more difficult to call but Nigeria (10/11 with PaddyPower, Ladbrokes) should have too much for Carlos Quieroz’s Iran.

Ghana/USA will surely follow the trend which has seen three or more goals in every game so far – Over 2.5 is available at 28/99 with 888sport.

 

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Creg
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