WORLD CUP DIARY: 26 JUNE

WORLD CUP DIARY: 26 JUNE

On Wednesday we were treated to another interesting day at the World Cup as the final matches in Groups E and F were played.

Of the eight teams playing yesterday there were only two that had nothing to play for except pride; Honduras in Group E and Bosnia in Group F, both hoping to at least pick up a victory before exiting the tournament.

Our afternoon began in Group F with the 5pm kick-offs being Argentina v Nigeria and Bosnia v Iran.

 

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Argentina v Nigeria

The Argentina v Nigeria match set off at electric pace and who else but Leo Messi broke the deadlock in the third minute, his fastest career goal.

Messi fires home to give Argentina the lead

Messi fires home to give Argentina the lead

The goal came when Zabaleta played a perfect ball out wide for Di Maria to run onto and he shot at the near post, actually hitting the woodwork, his shot then bounced out and hit the Nigerian keeper on the back , then hitting the post again before rebounding back out into the path of the onrushing Messi who fired his shot into the roof of the net.

What a start!

Now I don’t suppose any of you have ever heard a commentator suggest that you’re at your most vulnerable after scoring? No I didn’t think so. Well Argentina showed that they definitely were as Nigeria managed to find an equaliser only 80 seconds after conceding.

Clever play from Babatunde to carry the ball forwards and then play it out wide to Musa  resulted in Musa cutting inside and curling a perfectly executed strike past Romero and into the net, 1-1!

A brilliant start to the match and it looked like we were in for another feast of football and attacking play with this being the first time in World Cup history that both teams had scored inside the opening 5 minutes of a match.

In a sight that we have unfortunately become accustomed to seeing in the Premier League this season, Sergio Aguero was forced off in the 38th minute with an injury and replaced by Lavezzi.

Aguero hobbled off again, sadly a frequent occurrence in recent times for the Manchester City forward

Aguero hobbled off again, sadly a frequent occurrence in recent times for the Manchester City forward

Both sides continued to cause problems for the opposing defence throughout the first half and as the first half was coming to a close it was Argentina who were looking the more dangerous with the Nigerian defence trying to stop them anyway possible and having to concede a few free-kicks just outside the penalty area.

From a free-kick on the right hand-side of the box Messi curled his shot over the wall and it was heading for the top corner but Vincent Enyeama was able to pull off a top-drawer save and push the ball behind for a corner.

Minutes later though Messi was stood over the ball again for another freekick, this time more centrally and this time the ball ended up flying past Enyeama who stood no chance as the shot couldn’t have been placed better, inch perfect from the little magician. If you haven’t seen the goal yet then I highly recommend checking it out online.

Argentina went in at half time 2-1 up.

Musa celebrates bringing Nigeria on terms for the second time

Musa celebrates bringing Nigeria on terms for the second time

The second half didn’t disappoint as it started with the same excitement as the first half as Nigeria were level again within 2 minutes of the restart. Emenike was able to hold off an Argentian defender before playing a clever through ball between the Argentina centre-backs which Musa ran onto and coolly finished past Romero to get his second goal of the game.

However in the 50th minute, just three minutes after Musa’s equaliser, Argentina retook the lead from a Lavezzi corner with Rojo connecting with the ball with his knee and firing home.

Messi was taken off in the 63rd minute to be given a standing ovation after scoring 2 more goals to take his tally to 4 goals in 3 games and he was replaced by Alvarez.

A nasty looking injury for the bright-looking Babatunde was the only disappointing part of this match, as he was stretched off in the 66th minute with what looked like a broken wrist after his arm was struck by the ball from a powerful shot from his own teammate.

Argentina kept pushing for more goals and Di Maria was the main driving force for them, creating opportunities for others and being desperately unlucky to not get a goal of his own. The match finished 3-2 to Argentina which meant that they topped the group and fortunately for Nigeria they progressed to the last 16 as Iran had been beaten 3-1 by Bosnia in the other match in group F.

 

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Bosnia v Iran

Dzeko, who else, for Bosnia and Herzogovina

Dzeko, who else, for Bosnia and Herzogovina

The match between Bosnia and Iran didn’t have much resting on it for Bosnia but was crucial for Iran if they were to make the last 16, if they had beaten Bosnia they would have progressed as Nigeria lost to Argentina.

However it was never going to be Iran’s day as they went behind to a Dzeko goal in the 23rd minute and a comeback didn’t look likely with them having failed to score in either of their other 2 games.

With Bosnia leading 2-0 Iran did manage to get a goal in this year’s World Cup and give themselves a glimmer of hope when the brilliantly named Ghoochannejhad closed the deficit to 2-1 in the 82nd minute however their hopes were short lived as seconds later they found themselves 3-1 down and out of the World Cup.

Both sides failed to make it past the group stage but Bosnia were able to pick up their first ever victory at a World Cup in this match. Despite this I can’t help but think they’ll feel slightly disappointed as they could have had a place in the last 16 if they’d taken their chances in the previous matches.

 

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Group E

With Group F done and dusted attention turned to Group E for the 9pm kick-offs with France taking on Ecuador and Switzerland taking on Honduras.

France were already guaranteed a place in the last 16 but were playing to win the all important first place in the group to avoid a next round clash with Argentina. Ecuador would be through to the last 16 too, provided they equalled or bettered Switzerland’s result against Honduras.

The diminutive Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri proves his worth to Bayern Munich

The diminutive Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri proves his worth to Bayern Munich

However 6 minutes into the matches it wasn’t good news for Ecuador as Switzerland took the lead against Honduras through a lovely finish by Shaqiri, this meant that Ecuador now needed to beat the impressive France to progress.

The Ecuador v France game was an interesting match with both sides creating chances but neither really seeming to be going for it in the first half. A big talking point was when Sakho could have had a red card after he elbowed Minda but the referee did nothing. Will he be retrospectively punished like Suarez looks likely to be? You can be damn sure that Uruguay will kick up a fuss if he isn’t.

At half time France and Ecuador were goalless but Switzerland were beating Honduras 2-0 after a second goal from Shaqiri.

The second half between France and Ecuador was much more exciting with both sides having plenty of opportunities to grab a goal.

Shortly after the restart Antonio Valencia saw red for going over the ball with his studs raised and having both feet off the floor when Lucas Digne slid in to tackle him. Digne stayed down receiving treatment but fortunately he escaped any serious injury and was able to continue playing.

After Valencia’s dismissal you would have expected France to dominate and look more like the powerful attacking side we have seen in their previous 2 matches but Ecuador responded brilliantly when they went down to 10 men and kept creating chances of their own.

Valencia received a straight red for this poor tackle

Valencia received a straight red for this poor tackle

They could have taken the lead when Enner Valencia broke through and perhaps took too long to play the pass to Christian Noboa who shot wide after what was a precious opportunity to get take the lead.

In the 71st minute Shaqiri completed his hattrick for Switzerland, with his being the 50th hattrick scored at a World Cup. Honduras had their chances in this match with Rodriquez clearing off the line for Switzerland and Honduras were very unlucky to not be awarded a penalty too. They could and perhaps should have had a consolation goal towards the end when Bengtson was given a free header in the 6 yard box but he shot straight at the keeper. The match finished 3-0 to Switzerland.

Benzema, Giroud et al make it to the last 16, and have looked a force in their Group

Benzema, Giroud et al make it to the last 16, and have looked a force in their Group

France had a brilliant chance to get the victory when Paul Pogba rose for a header but he failed to hit the target when if he had done so he would surely have scored. The final score between France and Ecuador was 0-0 which meant that France topped the group and Switzerland went through in second place and Ecuador were left thinking about what might have been.

France will face Nigeria in the last 16 and Argentina will take on Switzerland. Argentina should ease past Shaqiri and co and I expect France to progress to the quarters too, we just need to see more of the attacking play that we saw in their opening 2 matches and they could again be considered contenders for the trophy.

 

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Messi now has four goals in three games

Messi now has four goals in three games

PLAYER OF THE DAY – LEO MESSI – Messi has been exceptional so far in this tournament and looks to finally have come of age in the Argentina shirt, with him having just celebrated his 27th  birthday. If he carries on putting in these type of match-winning performances then he could well achieve his dream of lifting the golden trophy on July 13th.

Xherdan Shaqiri deserves special mention too after his match winning hattrick for Switzerland and could have put himself in the shop window after a top performance and having found his opportunities more limited than he would have liked for Bayern Munich. At the age of 22 he still has huge potential and could be a top signing for a Premier League team.

 

TODAY’S FIXTURES

Group G

Ronaldo looks set for home

Ronaldo looks set for home

There’s plenty to play for today in Group G where all four teams still have the chance of making the last 16 although realistically it looks unlikely for Portugal due to their inferior goal difference.

These matches take place at 5 o’clock with the USA taking on Germany and Portugal facing Ghana. I’m intrigued to see the outcome of the USA v Germany game and find it too hard to call after the USA have really impressed me so far and the Germans were a bit of a letdown against Ghana but can never be underestimated.

Group H

Group H concludes a 9 o’clock with Belgium already being through to the last 16 and they take on South Korea who are almost certainly heading home unless they pull off a miraculous victory against Belgium and Russia beat Algeria but South Korea would need to win by 2 goals more than Russia do… Like I say South Korea are going home.

Algeria face Russia knowing that a draw will be enough to see them through to the last 16 but the Russians could cause them problems and they know that a victory will take them through to the second round.

 

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TODAY’S BETTING TIPS

Ladbrokes are offering 6/1 on a Germany, Portugal and Belgium treble which could appear tempting however personally I’m not convinced on that one with Ghana and USA both having the potential to get a result.

Belgium to win 3-0 is available at 16/1 at both Coral and SkyBet and that might appeal to you or you might be tempted by Belgium handicapped at -2.

world cup Brasil emblem 01

Charlie
Owls Alive
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