The fourth day of the World Cup brought great action from Group E and a first glimpse of Argentina’s fabled front line.
Dramatic goal seals Swiss comeback
Switzerland have been touted as a potential dark horse for this tournament – a team boasting a midfield of Xhaka, Inler and Behrami is definitely one to look out for.
And so it came as a surprise when Ecuador took the lead in the day’s opening match. The Ecuadorians were fast and ruthless on the counter attack, and the Swiss, who had an outstanding defensive record in qualifying, were stunned when Enner Valencia gave Ecuador the lead.
Right after half time, Ricardo Rodriguez’s cross met the head of substitute Admir Mehmedi, who turned in to equalize. After a chance to win it for Ecuador in the dying seconds, it was a role-reversal which saw the Swiss become the counter-attackers – Haris Seferovic turned in a winning goal with seconds left (against assisted by the brilliant Ricardo Rodriguez).
Rodriguez, who was one of Europe’s best defenders this season, was the key man as his country claimed a priceless late victory. Xherdan Shaqiri will need to respond with a better performance next game, but the win leaves the Swiss in a very promising position. Progression to the knockout rounds looks likely.
Palacios sees red as France unlock stubborn Honduras
If there was ever going to be a World Cup match that ended the streak of fantastic contests, this one was primed to be it. Honduras qualified to the World Cup on the back of their tenacious defending, and coming up against France would mean they’d have to continue doing just that.
But on the stroke of half time, all of their defensive set-up was proven to have been for naught – Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios fouled Paul Pogba in the box (they had been in a tussle earlier, earning Palacios a yellow), resulting in his second yellow card and dismissal from the match. No matter how hard you try, it’s hard to bunker with only 10 men.
On top going a man down, the match was made even harder for the Hondurans as Karim Benzema converted the penalty to give France a stranglehold of the match – a lead that proved decisive, as Benzema scored another and forced an own goal to give the French a comfortable 3-0 victory.
France will be pleased with the result, but they’ll know that there are much harder challenges ahead; both Switzerland and Ecuador will put up more of a contest than Honduras. Regardless, two goals from Benzema bodes well for the Real Madrid striker. His form will be key if the French are to go deep in this tournament.
Messi goal masks tough challenge from Bosnia
In the day’s final game, Argentina’s famous front line took on World Cup newcomers Bosnia – a match which saw Manchester City strikers Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko facing up against eachother.
It was Argentina who drew first blood when a Lionel Messi flick took a deflection and resulted in a Bosnia own goal. The goal threatened to open the floodgates, but the match remained a right contest.
The game exploded into life when a one-two put Lionel Messi charging towards goal – this time, the former Ballon D’or winner obliged, slotting in sublimely to put Argentina 2-0 up. A late goal from Bosnia substitute Vedad Ibisevic caused a nervy ending to the game, but Messi and co. claimed an important victory, defeating undoubtedly their biggest competitors in Group F.
Argentina’s front line didn’t live up to their incredible hype, but you just get the feeling that they’ll continue to improve as the tournament goes on. Getting Messi off the mark doesn’t hurt either.
Day 4: Still going strong!
Another day, more great games – this World Cup just hasn’t been able to disappoint.