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Executive Sports Co. and FIFA World Cup 2014: What we learned, Day 10
ARGENTINA 1, IRAN 0
Argentina needs work: Despite the victory, Argentina hardly looks like a squad that can make much noise in the knockout stage. Of course they have the talent, but their first two performances have been pedestrian at best. Lionel Messi was bottled up by Iran for about 90 minutes, and Argentina struggled to produce much in his absence. The back line was frequently saved by goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was huge against Iran. It's not necessarily that Argentina can't push its way through the knockout stage; it's just that they haven't looked like a team capable of doing so.
Iran's plan: The Iranian side executed its plan perfectly, shutting Argentina out for almost the entire game. In fact, Iran even generated some quality chances. It was a game they deserved to at least draw, but Messi's heroics ruined that. Iran, though, showed they're capable of keeping any side at bay; however scoring is not their strong suit. A few of their chances should have been converted, and now they'll need a clear result over Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to move through.
Group F scenarios: Argentina is through and Bosnia-Herzegovina is officially out after losing 1-0 to Nigeria. Iran, with one point, needs Argentina to beat Nigeria by a significant margin in the final group match, while also beating Bosnia itself (and overcoming goal differential). Nigeria will advance even if its loses to Argentina but maintains its lead in terms of goal differential over Iran. All of this is to say that Nigeria is sitting a lot prettier than Iran is, but Bosnia, who have been eliminated, are envious of both.
GERMANY 2 GHANA 2
Germany's backline is slow: All right, that's not exactly new information to anybody that's been paying attention, but it was glaringly obvious watching this match. Ghana's pace up top presented plenty of problems for the Germans, and showed that this German side is certainly beatable. Of course, the question Americans will want answered is whether or not the Americans have the players up top that can give the Germans the same kind of trouble.
Ghana is pretty damn good: Maybe we should give the United States a bit more credit for its win over Ghana. No, they didn't look good for much of the match before stealing it, but after what we saw in this match today, it might just be that Ghana is better than its been given credit for. Had it not been for John Brooks' header in those final minutes Ghana would find itself in a good position right now. As things currently stand, it won't be easy, but there's still an outside chance Ghana can advance depending on what happens in its next match against Portugal (as well as Portugal-United States Sunday).
Miroslav Klose knows how to put the ball in the back of the net: Again, this isn't exactly a revelation, but Miroslav Klose is a prolific goal-scorer. Less than a minute after subbing into the match Klose deflected a header into the net for the game-tying goal. It was also World Cup goal No. 15 for Klose in his career, tying him with Brazil's Ronaldo for the most all-time. It must be nice to be Germany and be able to bring a player off the bench with 14 World Cup goals to his name, huh?
NIGERIA 1, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 0
Nigeria should advance. By virtue of today's win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and its opening-match draw, Nigeria has four points and is comfortably in second place in Group F. It's playing an Argentinian team that has already advanced, however, Argentina will need to play this game competitively to maintain its lead atop Group F. Lionel Messi's squad has six points, but could be leap-frogged by Nigeria (four) should Nigeria shock the group favorite. Iran, with one point, needs a lot to happen, beginning with an Argentine beat-down of Nigeria (six or seven goals would help). It's not realistic and Nigeria has put itself in excellent position.
Referee's botched one (maybe two) massive calls. Nigeria will take its 1-0 win, but a perfectly good goal was disallowed for Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 20th minute. Offsides was called on Edin Dzeko as he slid one past the keeper, but replays showed the goal should've counted. Who knows how that alters Saturday's result?
Nigeria also benefitted from a no-call on Emmanuel Emenike's first-half assist. He shoved his way past a Bosnian defender and should probably never have been allowed to pass the ball to Peter Odemwingie for the game's only goal. Sometimes that's how it goes, but Bosnia had its chances. Edin Dzeko should've absolutely scored at least once late in the second half, if not twice. Second half sub Vedad Ibisevic had his chances, too. As did Miralem Pjanic. They just didn't finish, and the reason for that was because...
Vincent Enyeama was a monster in goal. Enyeama was peppered with ambitious shots from deep, close-range shots from near the six, bouncing balls, swerving shots, and all kinds of skidding strikes. He stopped them all, and while he'll get the clean sheet, his defenders deserve a ton of credit. Efe Ambrose, Joseph Yobo and Juwon Oshaniwa were outstanding and stepped in front of everything Bosnia's strikers could hurl at their keeper. The backline was aided by the midfielders who gladly tracked back to defend their goal. A total team effort from Nigeria, even if the referees made some terrible decisions.