First match on Saturday saw Argentina take on Iran in what was considered an easy tie for the former champions. But Argentinians played a loose unorganized game in sharp contrast to the incredibly irresistible and highly inspired Iranians. In the end, it was a lucky escape for South Americans, brought about by an injury-time goal from a magnificent Messi curler that deceived the Iranian goalkeeper. In the second match, Germany, who had outplayed Portugal in their first game, were severely challenged by some forceful football from the Ghanaian Black Stars with the match ending in a 2-2 draw. In the last match of the day, debutant Bosnia-Herzegovina put up a good show against Nigeria in the first half and even had a goal disallowed but the African champions held on till the end to get away with a 1-0 victory.
What is the use of 70% ball possession if that cannot be used to make a winning finish. The Argentinians played a rusty game against the charged up Iranians, who almost stole the match from the South Americans in Saturday’s first World Cup fixture. Unfortunately, Argentina’s dying-moments win will now hide their horrible display against Iran, who everyone thought was the weakest team of this World Cup. But for most part, Iran looked like ending victorious with their absolutely solid attack. And when it came to defending, they were not found wanting either. If the match was drawn, which seemed the only apparent outcome after 90 minutes, the coach and the players had something to reflect on the sordid play in the middle. Now they will become complacent and would not have to indulge in self-criticism. As for Messi, he might have scored the win for Argentina but for most part, he was in shadows. On one or two occasions one saw Messi emerge from here and there but he couldn’t make his presence felt. It was not the win Argentina would be proud of, although they march into the round of 16 from here.
Saturday’s second game at Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza was played at 4 pm with the sun beating down on the ground with 96% humidity. Such weather conditions make 90 minutes’ running a herculean task for humans. On a day like this, the Germans were pushed to the brink by the Black Stars. After their 4-0 drubbing of Portugal in the first game, Germany was expected to easily ward off any challenge from Ghana and finish with a win. But the Ghanaians don’t play slow games and they forced the Germans to fight. In the end, Germany was lucky to draw 2-2 with Ghana, after an early scare, in which the black stars went in front for a short while. In the thriller of a game, Mario Goetze put Germany in front after the halftime. For Ghana, Andre Ayew repeated the act of his previous game against the USA and produced an equalizer against Germany as well. The Black Stars looked a better team against tournament favorites, when they went into a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute. A lovely pass from Sulley Muntary came to Asamoah Gyan and the striker’s blasting shot found the target. The brief goal deficit charged up the Germans and they fought back to make it 2-2, when veteran Miroslav Klose converted a corner kick. Incidentally, Klose also equaled the record of highest number of 15 world cup goals by ex-Brazil star Ronaldo. Germany now find themselves in an awkward position with 4 points from two matches and their last match against USA assumes significance, much like Italy in Group D.
In the third game on Saturday, only one goal could be scored in the first half of the match by Nigeria, when they took on the first-time entrants Bosnia-Herzegovina. The debutants, however, only derived disappointment from the loss. But Bosnia played a convincing game even when they trailed 0-1 in the second half. In Cuiaba, Nigeria went in front in the 28th minute after the brilliant Emmanuel Emineke created space and sent a through pass to Peter Odemwingie, who struck decisively for 1-0 lead. Despite fighting football from both sides, no further goals could be scored during the rest of the match. It was a big occasion for the Nigerians, as they earned their first win in World Cup finals in 16 years. Bosnians were unlucky when Eden Dzeko’s goal was incorrectly disallowed for offside but by and large, the Nigerians created more opportunities.