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World Cup Round Up: Match Day 14

The penultimate day of group stage action

Jamie Squire

It's the penultimate day of the group stage, and the goals are still coming in their droves.

Kicking the day off would be the teams in Group F, and with Argentina already through and Bosnia & Herzegovina already out, it was between Iran and Nigeria, for who would win second place, with even the possibility of a coin toss to decide the outcome looming.

The coin toss would not be needed however, because Iran failed to beat BIH, slumping to a 3-1 loss.

The Bosnians started stronger, with Edin Dzeko forcing Alireza Haghighi into an early save.

Dzeko would soon come knocking on the Iran door again, but this time Haghighi couldn't stop his effort. The Manchester City striker picked the ball up a fair distance from goal, but he was allowed to run forward with it as an Iranian defender backed off. His mistake would prove costly as Dzeko's low left foot shot went in the bottom right corner.

Iran needed to win for any hopes of qualification and they came close to drawing level, less than a minute after they fell behind, Masoud Shojaei, rode a tackle in the box then hit a lofted shot that bounced off the underside of the cross bar.

BIH, doubled their lead midway through the second half, largely due to a mistake from an Iran player. The centre back carelessly gave the ball away to Miralem Pjanic who passed the ball forward and continued his run, Dzeko poked the ball forward to Susic, who then played a quick pass back into the feet of Pjanic, the Roma man then slid the shot into the bottom corner.

BIH were on top, and Haghighi, had to be vigilant to push Sead Kolainac's near post effort out for a corner.

Iran did manage to pull one goal back, a series of crosses were cleared by the Bosnian defence, but not completely, the ball came back over towards Javad Nekounam, who beat the offside flag to hit a first-time cross across the face of goal, for Reza Ghoochannejhad, to tap in.

Only a minute later however, Iran's chances of a spirited come back were completely diminished. A quick counterattack saw Salihovic, play a forward pass into the path of advancing right back Vrsajevic, he took the ball into the box and fired past the goalkeeper.

The result would give Bosnia their first win in a tournament and meant Iran would finish bottom of the group with one point, but you have to give them a degree of credit for still being in contention of qualification until the last game.

Full Time Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 Iran

23 - Dzeko        82 - Reza

59 - Pjanic

83 - Vrsajevic

MOTM: Miralem Pjanic

So with Iran failing to beat BIH, Nigeria could themselves lose to Argentina but still qualify for the last 16. And that's exactly what happened.

The game got off to an explosive start when only three minutes in, Angle Di Maria's shot hit the post, bounced off the goalkeeper's head and hit the post again, before landing at the feet of Lionel Messi, who smashed the ball home for the opener.

Argentina didn't hold their lead long however, and within 80 seconds, Nigeria were level through Ahmed Musa. Midfielder Michel Babatunde, drove at the Argentine defence and managed to feed the ball out wide to Musa before he was challenged, Musa then cut inside and ripped a bending shot into the far corner.

It was the first time in World Cup history that both teams had scored in the opening five minutes.

Argentina were obviously the side in control, with Enyema having to save well on several occasions, most notable from a rasping Di Maria drive which was about to nestle in the bottom corner and a Messi free kick, which the 'keeper did brilliantly to tip over.

However, not long after, Messi would have another opportunity from a free kick, and this time, he won. Messi hit an exceptional curling shot, over the wall and out of Enyema's reach.

There may have been a half-time break in-between, but on the clock, Nigeria's second equaliser came two minutes later. Ezequiel Garay, left a big hole in the Argentine defence to try and win the ball of Emanuel Emineke, but the striker held him off and played a through ball into the gap Garay had left, which Musa exploited to go through and shoot past Romero.

The second half got off to just a fast a start as the first, Argentina were pressing for a third and Enyema had to save twice from Di Maria, but they got themselves back in front only three minutes later: Ezequiel Lavezzi's in swinging corner was missed by both defenders and attackers, until it bounced of Marcos Rojo's boot and spun into the net.

After the explosive start, the games pace died down some what, with both teams conserving their energy for the next round, and the thrilling encounter ended 3-2.

Full Time: Nigeria 2-3 Argentina

4, 47 - Musa   3, 45 - Messi

50 - Rojo

MOTM: Lionel Messi

On to the second round of games and once again I made the wrong decision on which game to watch, I opted for France - Ecuador, which turned out to be quite the bore fest.

I can only remember a few things from the game off the top of my head:

1 - Valencia's sending off. Antonio Valencia was sent off for a bad, studs up challenge on Lucas Digne. Now, don't get me wrong, it was an awful tackle, one which could have seriously hurt Digne, but I do feel it was accidental as his boot slipped off the ball and caught Digne as it was coming back down. But testament to Valencia, he did not moan about the decision when it was given, so he obviously knew that he'd hurt him.

2 - Enner Valencia's jump. This guy is a monster! He jumped to the height of a defender's head to get a header on target. I really would love to see Valencia head to the Premier League this summer, I think he has a lot of the attributes to great in the league.

3 - Paul Pogba disappointed me again. Now, I don't see much of him at Juventus, so I'm not writing him off completely, but a lot of the times I've seen him he's been quite unimpressive. He fluffed a few chances against Ecuador, especially with a back post header from Moussa Sissoko's dinked cross, and a player who is supposed to be World class should be taking them. I have no doubt he is a huge talent and will grow into one of the World's best, but he's not quite there yet.

4 -  Alexander Dominguez had an absolute stormer. Ecuador's goalkeeper was excellent, particularly a tipping save from a Pogba header and his save from very close range to somehow deny Benzema.

5 - That Ecuadorian with a condom on his head. Hehe.

I have no doubt France were playing very conservatively and they did start a lot of reserve players, but there is a little cause for concern, considering they were unable to break down a team with ten men, and that team easily could have won had their shooting been better, but I guess you can put that down to Dominguez' performance.

The result ensures that France finish top of the group, setting up a last 16 tie with Nigeria, and that Ecuador become the only South American team to go home at this stage.

Full Time: Ecuador 0-0 France

MOTM: Alexander Dominguez

The final game of the day would be between Honduras and Switzerland, with the Swiss hoping for a win to advance out of the group stage.

They got off to a good start when Drmic, coming back into the start XI, connected with Shaqiri, for the first of many times in the game, but Valladares made a good save from close range to deny the Bayern München man.

The Honduran goalkeeper could do nothing to stop Shaqiri, moments later however. The winger picked the ball up wide, then drove inside whilst holding off a challenge, then unleashed a sublime shot into the top corner.

Drmic and Shaqiri combined again, but this time to a better end. Inler's long pass forward was missed by a Honduran challenge and landed at Drmic, the striker then played in Shaqiri who was advancing into the massive hole in the Honduras defence, then slotted into the bottom corner before anyone could get close.

Honduras came close to equalising in the second half, a smart move and awful defending from Djourou, saw Bengston get in behind the defence, take the ball past Benaglio and shoot, but Rodriguez was on the line to hack it clear.

The central Americans then should have been award a penalty: Djourou again with awful defending allowed him self to get caught under the ball, and then bundled over Bengston in the area, but nothing was given.

Switzerland and Shaqiri got their third and confirmed their place in the next round, after another lovely bit of play between the goal scorer and Drmic.

Drmic latched onto Rodriguez' long punt forward, ghosted past Bernardez as if he wasn't there and teed up Shaqiri, who finished with ease for his hat trick.

Switzerland go through to the next round, where they'll face Argentina, to see who advances to the quarter finals.

Full Time: Honduras 0-3 Switzerland

6, 31, 71 - Shaqiri

MOTM: Xherdan Shaqiri