The ink has dried for Group F of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil as Nigeria and Argentina are set to advance to the Second Round on June 30 and July 1, respectively. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran played against each other today, however neither team was able to rack up enough points to progress out of group stages.
Iran v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia made some significant changes to their starting lineup by opting for a two-striker formation. Instead of leaving Edin Džeko all alone up top, manager Safet Sušić paired off the forward with Vedad Ibišević. Some of the veteran players left off the starting lineup were co-captain Zvjezdan Misimović and defender Mensur Mujdža.
Right off the bat, things looked difficult for Bosnia. Though the Bosnians were able to maintain some possession of the ball, Iran had successfully compacted the midfield. By the time the Bosnian offensive drive had moved to the flanks, Iran had already set up defensively to hammer down any attempt down the flanks as well. It seemed as though Bosnia would desperately need a counter attack if they wanted any hope of scoring.
They got that chance in the 23rd minute. After an Iranian drive up the field lost possession, Džeko (on a pass from Miralem Pjanić) gave a solid left-footed shot that was too low and too amply placed in the corner for the Iranian goalkeeper, Alireza Haghighi, to grab.
Iran became dangerous Bosnia when midfielder Masoud Shojaei was tripped up in the box but managed to stay on his feet and get off a great shot that hit the top post. Reza Ghoochannejhad responded to the rebound but was unable to get an adequate strike on the ball.
In the 59th minute, Bosnian midfielder Pjanić got a goal after his team did a good job applying pressure on the Iranian defense, forcing a turnover in the Bosnian offensive third. Offensively, Iran had some trouble penetrating the Bosnian defense and got caught offsides on numerous occasions.
Things took a turn for the Iranian squad in the 82nd minute when midfielder Javad Nekounam was the lone offensive player onsides for a service into the box. Nekounam was able to cross the ball to star forward, Ghoochannejhad, who was able to capitalize on the opportunity and get his country its only goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Unfortunately for the Iran, the Bosnians responded immediately with another goal, putting the score at its final state at 3-1. Though Iran did not get the win they needed in order to have a shot at the Second Round, they will be known as one of the most effective defensive teams in this tournament.
Argentina v Nigeria
Things went fantastically well for the crutch of the Argentinian squad, Lionel Messi, in the team’s match against Nigeria. Messi, in celebrating his birthday a day late, scored two goals for Argentina, thus continuing his World Cup goal-scoring streak.
Messi’s first goal came in the 3rd minute of play, when he was able to get on the end of the ball after it ricocheted off the Nigerian goalkeeper and the post. Nigeria immediately responded by breaking down Argentina’s defense.
Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa scored a phenomenal goal in the 4th minute. Musa, who carried the ball down the left side of the field, cut the ball back once he entered the box and sent it across into the right side of the net.
Messi demonstrated his knack for scoring in added time by netting Argentina’s second goal just before the half-time whistle was blown. In a classic Messi free kick, the crutch of Argentina sent a curving left-footed shot into the upper V of the goal.
In the second half, Nigeria’s Musa got the equalizer for his team by splitting the Argentinian defense in the 47th minute. Musa and the Nigerian offense were able to expose, just as Iran had, some serious weaknesses in the Argentine back line. However, defensive woes were ultimately overshadowed by offensive strengths.
In the 50th minute, Marcos Rojo got on the end of a corner kick from Ezequiel Lavezzi, and managed to get his knee on the ball, finalizing the score at 3-2. The game was one of the more high-scoring matches, and despite Nigeria’s loss, both teams will advance to the Second Round. Nigeria finished off second in Group F behind Argentina.
Nigeria will play the first seed of Group E, most likely France at this point, at the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasília, Brazil. It will be the first time Nigeria has seen Second Round play since 1998.
Argentina will face off against the second seed of Group E, where things are looking good for both Switzerland and Ecuador. The overall fate for Group E will be decided following today’s matches between Honduras and Switzerland, and Ecuador and France.
As for Bosnia’s first World Cup appearance, 3rd place in Group F is not so rough, especially in light of the team’s overall performance. The World Cup is not a tournament that necessarily rewards performance, however, both Bosnia and Iran performed extremely well. Both teams can return happily and continue to develop their national programs in order to better situate themselves for the next World Cup. Argentina and Nigeria, on the other hand, will hope to continue to perform well as they advance to the Second Round.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering World Cup Group F
Observation by author
Guardian Liberty Voice