The second round of group games began with group F wide open. Argentina, as expected, in pole position, the rest of the teams separated by a single point. The early game kicked off with Argentina taking on Iran. Argentina, despite their win looked less than convincing in their first game and needed to show their mettle against a well drilled Carlos Queiroz side.
As we all well know, parking a great big bus in your own half against quality opposition is like tickling the tummy of a cat. You know at some point, you’re going to get clawed. Even at their least impressive, Argentina are not the sort of feline you want to be messing with.
For the first 15 minutes of so, Iran managed to keep Argentina at bay; tough and organised but the warning signs were therefrom the off; Argentina pressing inside the Iranian half, some brave goalkeeping from Haghighi keeping out Higuaín and Agüero.
Messi had expressed his unhappiness with the formation Argentina had in their opener and the switch from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 was decisive. After 30 minutes their possession was 74% with 126 passes completed compared to Iran’s 19!
That’s not to say that Iran weren’t any good. To be fair, some of the better chances in the game fell their way; Hosseini denied a couple of good headers.
The second half was no different; Argentina pressing and opening more gaps in Iran’s defence, yet unable to make it count. Iran should have had a penalty on 54 minutes when Pablo Zabaletta got none of the ball and plenty of Dejagah. It looked like justice would be done about 10 minutes later but Dejagah’s header flew just over the bar.
I felt for Iran, they had arguably the better chances and held their own against one of the favourites yet all it took was for Messi to get a little bit of space and the game was all over in the 91st minute. A beautiful and unstoppable curler into the top corner and I suppose that’s what makes the difference in this tournament; having a player like that. Again though, I just didn’t feel Argentina were the force that they were expected to be, yet again and I’d like to see them eliminated by an underdog in the knockout stages.
Nigeria vs. Bosnia – Herzegovina up next. Nigeria lined up with a few attacking changes, the most significant being a starting place for Peter Odemwingie. After Nigeria’s poor previous performance, I was fully expecting Bosnia – Herzegovina to walk this, but it was sadly not be for my Eastern European brothers. Nigeria, again, started with furious pace, counter-attacking and unnerving the Bosnia – Herzegovina defence into making some sloppy errors. After the first 20 minutes, it was Nigeria that was the better team; the pace and link up play of Musa and Emenike working chances but unable to finish. Bosnia – Herzegovina will feel hard done by; they did not bend and began making their own chances, turning this into a frenetic and entertaining match. Edin Džeko had the ball in the back of the net but was thwarted only by a terrible offside decision from the officials. Bosnia – Herzegovina forced an impressive Enyeama into some good saves but a counter attack by Nigeria saw Emenike leave Spahić on his arse, pull the ball back across where Odemwingie struck.
It got even worse for the man City striker; Edin Džeko hit the post a couple of times in added time and a spent Bosnia – Herzegovina saw their World Cup hopes fizzle out as the final whistle blew. They can feel hard done by regarding the wrongly given offside, but Nigeria seemed to want it more today.
Argentina vs Nigeria is shaping up to be a bit of a cracker.
Sadly, there was no Lawro’s Golden Moment this week
Sign him up!: (In a not-at-all-Karel-Poborsky-style-reactionary-way) Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa; pace, skill and a good cross…I know just the team who need someone like this!
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