Day 13 Review: Rojo rescues Argentina

Argentina made it, just. Needing to beat Nigeria in front of a partisan crowd Argentina got a perfect start from their main man when Ever Banega’s brilliant deep ball picked out Messi who’s angled drive handed Argentina the lead. But Nigeria with their punchy midfield trio weren’t going away and the introduction of striker Odion Ighalo caused Argentina’s shaky back line plenty of problems and when veteran midfielder Javier Mascherano needlessly gave away a corner from which he then needlessly gave away a penalty Nigeria were back on terms thanks to Victor Moses’ spot kick. And as Argentina threatened to lose their discipline and shape Ighalo blew 2 good chances to seal the win. Gonzalo Higuain blew a glroious chance but in the dying minutes a stunning volley from defender Marcos Rojo sealed Argentina’s win.

Group D Nigeria vs Argentina
Rojo and Messi celebrate

Simultaneously already qualified Croatia played Iceland who needed a win to pip Argentina to second spot. Unsurprisingly Croatia rested several of their stars and Iceland almost caught them out when Alfred Finnbogason dispossessed a defender but nailed his shot just wide. But Croatia improved after the break and Milan Badelj slammed home the opening goal. But Iceland don’t lack for spirit and continued to push and as ever posed a threat from set pieces. With 14 minutes to go they got a deserved lifeline from the penalty spot with Gylfi Sigurdsson making up for his miss against Nigeria by slamming home for 1-1. But as Iceland pushed for a winner they inevitably left gaps at the back and in injury time and Ivan Perisic took advantage with a goal on the break to confirm Iceland’s exit and Argentina’s place in the last 16.

Here’s how you chose which simultaneous group game to watch- pick the game where a side need to win rather than just draw and never pick a side who’ve already qualified.  If you followed those 2 rules then you spent yesterday watching Australia vs Peru rather than France vs Denmark- and you picked well!

Australia needed to win whilst Peru were already out despite playing some enterprising football. Australia made the better start and pushed for the early breakthrough but with their first attack Peru finally scored their first goal at the World Cup since 1982 when Andre Carrillo volleyed home from 15 yards. Australia continued to attack with Tom Rogic provided dribbled into the penalty area but couldn’t find a finish. Rogic then teased the Peruvian defence and set up Matthew Leckie who was denied by some fine last-ditch defending. Early in the second half Peru struck the killer blow when national hero Paolo Guerrero spun on the edge of the box and found the bottom corner of the net: 2-0. Australia didn’t give it up and produced a series of corners but lacked the creativity to unlock a Peru side now content to play on the break and Christian Cueva came close to grabbing a third but hit the post.

That result guaranteed Denmark’s qualification alongside France who combined to create the first 0-0 draw of the tournament thus far, in a game where the most notable thing to happen was the teams’ own fans booing their obvious satisfaction with settling for a dour draw.

Day 14 Preview

Group E

Brazil could go out here! The Samba boys must avoid defeat to Serbia to go through whilst Switzerland will go through if they get at least a draw against eliminated Costa Rica. Serbia feel with some justification a sense of injustice for the penalty they should have got after Alexsander Mitrovic was tag teamed to the ground by Switzerland’s defence. The key player could be Nemanja Matic who needs to hold the defence together against the tide of yellow shirts. Neymar meanwhile needs to show he has the maturity to move his team forward because right now he’s holding them back.

Switzerland breathed a collective sigh of relief when FIFA opted to only issue fines for Xhaka & Shaqiri’s Albanian Eagle gesture meaning Switzerland’s star men will face Costa Rica. It’s hard to see Switzerland not collecting at least a point and I can see this group coming down to goal difference.

Predictions: Brazil 2-1 Serbia, Switzerland 2-0 Costa Rica

Group F

Surely Germany won’t mess it up again will they? Well they need a win and will be boosted by the absence of Jeroeme Boateng with the need to tighten their slow looking defence against the swift counter attacking they’ll face from South Korea, who are still in with a shout if they win and Mexico beat Sweden.

For Mexico a point is enough to be sure whilst Sweden need to better Germany’s result. The Swede’s have shown great togetherness after the shock of conceding that 95th minute goal on Saturday night. But Mexico have looked resolute in defence and potent on the counter and Sweden will likely need to play a more attacking style of play to progress which isn’t their natural setting.

Predictions: Germany 2-1 South Korea, Mexico 1-1 Sweden

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