FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 16 June 2014
Switzerland (0) 2 – 1 (1) Ecuador
A dramatic end to start the day’s games.
Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after 22 minutes, but how Swiss keeper Benaglio thought he’d save it by diving backwards into the net I’ll never know. Ecuador held the lead until half-time, but within three minutes of the restart, substitute Mehmedi headed home from a corner with the Ecuador defence static. Both sides had chances to win the game, but in time added-on as Rodriguez got down the left and crossed low for Seferovic to clinically finish and grab a spectacular winner for the Swiss.
France (1) 3 – 0 (0) Honduras
I’m not going to be critical of Honduras and their tactics. It could have worked in that it might have unsettled the French and provided a way into the game for Honduras. The fact is that if you go with very physical tactics, you know you are continually treading a thin line and as Palacios showed if you ‘live by the sword, you die by the sword’.
France will be relieved to have got this one out of the way.
Argentina (0) 2 – 0 (1) Bosnia-Herzegovina
A stilted display from Argentina. Although they were never in danger of losing the game once Messi put them 2-0. Bosnia got one late on, but it was too little too late.
* * * * * * * * *
Tonight the games are:
Iran v Nigeria
Iran qualified after finishing first in the AFC Group ahead of South Korea. Apart from a 4-0 win over Lebanon, Iran scored only four more goals in their remaining seven games, whilst conceding only two games in their eight qualifiers. Nigeria are the current Africa Cup of Nations Champions and qualified for Brazil after a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia.
I’m all for the underdog Iran, especially as Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah is amongst their ranks and in our relegation season was one of the better players. Whilst born in Tehran, his family moved to Germany when he was a child and his club football has seen him appear for Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg. He played for Germany from Under 17s right up to Under 21s, but opted to play for the country of his birth making his debut in 2012.
The Nigerian squad is a nomadic bunch, with the 23 man squad drawn from thirteen different countries, with the biggest contingent (seven) drawn from Britain – Joseph Yobo (Norwich City), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Liverpool), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United).
No betting irregularities here as Nigeria cruise to s 2-0 win.
Germany v Portugal
My office sweepstake team, Germany, make their first appearance in these Finals in one of the games of the opening rounds of fixtures against Portugal. The Germans topped their qualifying group finishing unbeaten and 8 points ahead of second-placed Sweden. Ironically it was the Swedes that Portugal beat in the Play-offs to secure their place in Brazil. Ronaldo scored the only goal in the first-leg in Lisbon and was also to prove the hero in the second-leg. He gave Portugal the lead in the game in Solna, but two goals from Ibrahimovic looked like taking the tie to extra-time. However, Ronaldo got two in two minutes to grab a hat-trick and seal a 4-2 win.
Only six of the German squad play outside the Bundesliga, including the Arsenal trio of Mertesacker, Ozil and Podolski, Chelsea’s Schurrle, and two in Italy, [Mustafi, who was briefly at Everton but now plays for Sampdoria, and Klose (Lazio)]. The Portuguese squad has few players with any experience of the English Premier League, the exceptions being Raul Meireles, who had spells at both Liverpool and Chelsea, Nani who is still at Old Trafford and of course Ronaldo. In addition, Helder Postiga was briefly at Spurs.
Does this game hold a shock score like Spain v Netherlands or are we about the see a cagey draw between two of the European heavyweights?
Ghana v USA
The image of Suarez celebrating in the tunnel after his sending-off as Ghana missed a potentially match winning penalty, still burns unpleasantly in my memory from the 2010 World Cup. Four years later Ghana are back in the Finals again after a comfortable 7-3 aggregate win over Egypt in the CAF Qualifying stages. USA were top of their CONCACAF Qualifying Groups finishing four points clear of runners-up Costa Rica.
It’s funny how you can go off a player. USA captain Clint Dempsey was a hero at Fulham for his whole-hearted effort and of course THAT goal against Juventus in the UEFA Europa League. He then buggered off to Spurs citing that he needed to at a big club playing European football – and we know how that worked out. He then came back to Fulham for a loan spell this season (essentially to keep himself fit prior to the MLS season and World Cup), contributing nothing in the games he played and further tarnishing his reputation down in SW6.
The rest of the USA squad contains a sprinkling of English Premier League experience including keepers Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) and Geoff Cameron (Stoke City). The only Ghanian currently playing in England is Albert Adomah, who plays for Middlesbrough, but was born in one of my old stomping grounds in South London, Lambeth.
I hoping for a fluent display from Ghana and a win, although the USA are a dogged bunch and could draw their African opponents into a stilted draw.