Argentina, Bosnia – Herzegovina, Iran & Nigeria
On paper, there’s a favourite as clear as day, two others and an underdog. There’s also Lionel Messi, Shola Ameobi and one of the best surnames in the whole competition; Ghoochannejhad. I hope that fella does something controversial. Not because I have anything against Iran, but it would be funny to watch Robbie Savage try and pronounce his name.
After the trouncing of Spain (which, I must admit was hugely enjoyable) and England’s inevitable defeat (Quite pleasurable as well, but I’m a Poland fan and we didn’t even qualify, so no bitterness there, nope…), group F’s first encounter, Argentina vs. Bosnia – Herzegovina, was shaping up to be pretty exciting. Only it wasn’t. It was interesting to learn during the build up that out of Bosnia – Herzegovina’s starting 11, only one of them grew up in Bosnia (Edin Džeko) and the rest of them could have decided to play for someone else. Yet they didn’t.
That stirred some Slavic pride in me and I found myself rooting for the ‘heroes’ of Bosnia – Herzegovina before the game even started. (It also helped that Bosnians consider Bosnian-born Zlatan Ibrahimović as a ‘traitor’). I imagine that if this game had been covered by ITV instead, this knowledge would have been usurped by a despicable combination of tiresome adverts and Adrian Chiles.
The game started with a disastrous own goal in the 3rd minute after a flick from Rojo was turned into his own net by Kolašinac. As newcomers to the world cup, this could have proved disastrous, Messi and co. scenting blood and going for the kill. Yet that never happened. It was, in fact, the Bosnians who were the better team for the majority of the game; Di María and Messi more often than not being closed down in midfield or having the ball taken off their toes before they could even get to the penalty area. Messi though, being Messi scored a cracker in the 65th minute to put the game beyond Bosnia – Herzegovina who, to their credit, never gave up. 2-0 down to Argentina and many teams would have parked a bus to limit the damge; not this lot. They always looked a threat and were rewarded with a great goal on 85 minutes, Ibišević slotting the ball through the legs of Romero.
To be fair, they battled to the last minute but were let down by some poor final balls. Argentina were, frankly, a massive disappointment, Bosnia – Herzegovina outweighed them by double in terms of heart and deserved at the very least, a point. But games are won with goals, not heart. Iran vs. Nigeria next; not a game that exactly stirs the blood of the neutral, yet this was by far a much better match than the group F opener…for a bit. Nigeria threw everything at Iran for the first 20 minutes and were unlucky not to have taken the advantage; Emenike and Musa’s pace potentially terrifying for the Iranian defence but for some truly shocking midfield play, errant passes and terrible crossfield balls, leaving the strikers isolated and frustrated.
It was, however, Iran that came the closest to a goal on the half hour, Reza Ghoochannejhad’s header forcing a fantastic save from Enyeama (I told you that lad would come good!) Victor Moses huffed off on 50 minutes for the big man himself. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s deliveries from midfield were becoming worse as the game went on and wor Shola isn’t known for his pace. However he came closest to goal, getting on the end of a couple of rare, accurate crosses. The game petered out in the second half and neither team really looked threatening. 0-0 was probably a just result for such a poor game. Iran, I think, will be the happier side. This week ends with, as expected, Argentina topping the group, the rest of the places still wide open despite Bosnia – Herzegovina bringing up the rear.
Lawro’s golden moment: (that bit during commentary when Mark Lawrenson stops being curmudgeonly for a brief moment and attempts a joke): [on Argentina’s Marcos Rojo being yellow carded] “Good job he didn’t get a Rojo!” (Nope, no idea what he’s on about either) Sign him up!: (In a not-at-all-Karel-Poborsky-style-reactionary-way) Bosnia – Herzegovina’s Miralem Pjanić, just for the effortless way he stood up, showed no fear and won the ball from Messi time and time again.
Post Script: It was good of Raul Meireles to take time out from plundering monasteries along the Northumberland coast to play some football. Raul Meireles, forgetting that there’ll be cameras and that at the world cup.
Have you taken out a subscription to true faith DIGITAL yet? The SUMMER SPECIAL is out this week and flying out the door. You can take out an annual subscription for £17.99 or a quarterly subscription for £5.99 no matter where you are in the world. You will get instant accessto this latest issue as well as everyone we publish over the next year or four months. You will also get access to the previous 30 issues we have published as well. All you need to do is click here and you are on the way to getting access to your true faith subscription.