Underdogs Iran frustrate Argentina
In the first game of the World Cup’s 10th day, overwhelming favourites Argentina met an Iran side that they were expected to dismantle.
But, as so many other underdogs have done this World Cup, Iran set out to cause an upset.
Right from the off, their game plan was clear – facing an offense containing Messi and Agüero, Iran were mostly concentrated on just keeping things tight at the back and looking to hit Argentina on the break.
And, despite being completely dominated on the ball, Iran managed to hold firm until half time. Argentina had a staggering 78 per cent of the possession and triple the shots of Iran, but could not find a way through a resolute Iranian back line.
The second half continued in a similar vein, and with the game approaching the final minutes it seemed as if Iran would pull off a massive upset and hold Argentina to a goalless draw.
But, as the World Cup has shown time and time again, you should never rule out something spectacular.
With Argentina heading for a 0-0 tie, it was left to none other than Lionel Messi to decide the game with a moment of magic.
In the 91st minute of play, Messi cut inside onto his left foot (where have we seen that before?) and released a spectacular curling effort that nestled into the corner of the Iranian goal.
The goal sealed a 1-0 victory for Argentina, who have sealed progression to the knockout rounds, and emphasized that anything is possibly with a world-class player in your squad.
With Lionel Messi, Argentina are never out of a match. Don’t forget that, it might prove to be a trend this summer.
Germany and Ghana battle in enthralling draw
Fresh off of their destruction of Portugal, Germany came into this game knowing that victory over Ghana would likely propel them into the next round.
The match pitted brothers against each other (for the second time in their careers) as Germany’s Jerome Boateng and Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, both having chosen to represent different countries, met in the crucial Group G encounter.
The first half set the tone for a fantastic game – Germany played their slick, passing game while Ghana came at them with power and pace.
Both teams had their chances, but the half time whistle brought an end to a goalless, but absorbing, first half of football.
The second half was even better, bringing end-to-end action that resulted in four goals in the span of just 20 minutes.
First, it was Germany’s Mario Götze, whose fortuitous header opened the scoring in the 51st minute of play. But the lead only lasted three minutes before Ghanaian winger Andre Ayew turned in an equalizer.
Ghana then took a surprise lead when striker Asmoah Gyan powered a shot past Manuel Neuer in the 63rd minute, giving the Ghanaians the lead for the first time in this World Cup.
It was short lived – veteran striker Miroslav Klose poked in a knockdown from a Germany freekick, and parity was restored once again.
The end-to-end action came to a close, and Ghana and German each took a hard-fought point. Germany can now clinch first spot with a win over the USA, while Ghana need to beat Portugal if they are to have any chance of going through.
This truly is the World Cup that just keeps on giving.
Nigeria nick three points off Bosnia
In the day’s final match, Nigeria and Bosnia met, both needing three points to move into second spot in Group F. Bosnia’s tight opening-game loss to Argentina meant that they especially needed to pick up points – failing to do so would see them eliminated.
Edin Dzeko thought he’d opened the scoring when he slotted the ball past the onrushing Nigerian goalkeeper in the 21st minute, but he was judged to have been offside.
However, the replay showed that the linesman made the wrong call – Dzeko was clearly onside, and his country was unfairly denied a goal that could be crucial in their World Cup campaign.
There was more controversy to come.
Only eight minutes later, the referee failed to call what looked like a blatant foul from Emmanuel Emenike, which allowed the Nigerian to find teammate Peter Odemwingie in the box, and his compatriot turned in the opening goal.
Both sides continued to test each other, but the referee’s final whistle brought the game to a close before Bosnia could level the match. Nigeria, in controversial circumstances, had claimed a slim 1-0 victory – a result that knocks Bosnia out of the tournament.
The Bosnians were clearly aggrieved by the decision, but nonetheless, the game brought a halt to their World Cup dream.
Nigeria will head into their final game against Argentina knowing that even with a loss, they could still progress into the next round if the day’s other result goes their way.