Argentina get past Nigeria to top Group F
In a rematch of their South Africa 2010 opener, Argentina topped Nigeria 3-2 in a game that could've seen Lionel Messi and friends drop to second in the group in the event of a loss. Messi bookended the first half with goals, though, the latter of which Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama could not even dive for.
CSKA Moscow forward Ahmed Musa twice (4', 47') brought the Nigerians level. Three minutes after Musa's second, Marcos Rojo kneed in a corner kick to take the decisive lead. That's nine points from the group for Argentina, who move on as Group F winners despite not seeming at their best for large periods of time within the group.
The Argentines do boast the highest City contingent, and would not be a bad team to support for City fans who've had their squad eliminated. Some news on that front, though: Sergio Agüero's bad injury luck unfortunately continued, as the City striker was substituted with a first-half injury. While he was able to walk off the field under his own power, it's a disappointment to see the Argentine again suffer a setback after so many recent fitness problems.
Dzeko gets a goal as Bosnia and Herzegovina exit on a positive
Seeing BIH finish strongly after the loss against Nigeria was a welcome sight, especially when Edin Dzeko scored the opener in the country's first World Cup victory. The Bosnians were unfortunate to find themselves without an opportunity to advance on the final day, but the Dragons were able to close strongly by scoring three on an Iranian defense that had only surrendered a single goal--Messi's winner--before Wednesday. To be a blown offside call away from probable advancement must sting, but BIH should return home from Brazil with no personal regrets. (Well, besides that own goal against Argentina)
France and Switzerland advance from Group E
Boasting a +6 goal differential, France were almost guaranteed to advance as Group E's No.1 team even without a point against Ecuador. A win would have given Ecuador a shot at advancing, but the two teams played out a 0-0 draw, quite the rarity in this tournament. France will meet Nigeria in the round of 16, but the real test likely comes in the form of a possible quarterfinal opponent: Germany, in all likelihood.
A Shaqiri hat-trick against Honduras powered Switzerland to a 3-0 victory and the second spot from Group E. Credit must go to the Swiss for not collapsing after the demolition at the hands of the French, and they'll face Argentina in the round of 16. Facing the Argentine attack doesn't seem like a favorable situation for the Swiss, particularly after already giving up five goals to France, but this World Cup continues to demonstrate that we're never too far removed from craziness.
A subjective ranking of the current knockout fixtures
1. Brazil-Chile: As much pressure as Brazil had before this tournament, facing Chile in the round of 16 amplifies it by about a million. As an added interest for City fans, Fernandinho should--if there is any sensibility in this world--get a start over Paulinho, too.
2. Colombia-Uruguay: Even if Luis Suarez begins his solitary walk back to Anfield before the round of 16, this game will still entertain as the second match on Saturday. In the final round of South American qualifying, the teams split their two games, with the home team winning both times.
3. Netherlands-Mexico: Tempted to put this one higher due to my CONCACAF bias, but not even walking GIF Miguel Herrera can top the two all-South American games.
4. Argentina-Switzerland: Group F's No.1 and the No. 2 from Group E meet in what is actually a pretty decent game, all things considered.
5. France-Nigeria: Only Colombia and the Netherlands have scored more goals than the French thus far, hopefully ensure a somewhat entertaining game on Monday, especially if Musa can show up like he did against Argentina.
6. Costa Rica-Greece: If you enjoy defense, perhaps this one deserves to be on the other end of your spectrum.
Look ahead to the final day in Group G and H
It seems almost as though Silvestre Varela's 95th-minute equalizer against the U.S. took place over a month ago. Time has slowed to an excruciating pace while waiting for the U.S. to play Germany, but Group G comes to a head on Thursday. All four teams are in contention for a knockout spot, though Portugal's road will be quite tougher because of a pitiful goal differential.
Both Ghana and Portugal need a win and some help to advance, almost guaranteeing an insane game in Brasilia. It could be the exact opposite in Recife, as the Germans and Americans both go through with a draw, but Jurgen Klinsmann has tried to quiet any media talk of the teams taking it easy.
Injuries have been a huge theme in Group G, and Jozy Altidore's hamstring injury again means he will be missing from the U.S. side against Germany. Klinsmann has yet to announce if Clint Dempsey will continue as a lone forward, in the same role he played against Portugal. Only needing a draw against Germany, that'd be a safe bet, but Aron Johannsson could also provide a little more pace if given an opportunity to partner him.
In Group H, Belgium have already secured a knockout position, and even a draw against South Korea will guarantee the top seed. Russia and Algeria look poised--save for a Belgian disaster and Korean miracle--to battle it out for the second spot. Only a win will do it for the Russians, while the Desert Foxes can play for a draw after their impressive showing against South Korea.