Lionel Messi, Germany-Ghana and an important match in Group F. Not a bad three games to watch on the second Saturday of the tournament.
Match: Argentina vs. Iran in Belo Horizonte
What to watch for: Argentina approached their first match against Bosnia cautiously. They started five defenders and left striker Gonzalo Higuain out of the starting 11. A Bosnia own goal in the third minute allowed Argentina to sit back and possess the ball. Lionel Messi was in a playmaking role for most of the match and then decided to make an individual run to double Argentina’s lead. I think Argentina will be more aggressive in the next two group matches by starting Higuain and having Sergio Aguero play closer to Messi. Iran did well to hold on to a draw against Nigeria and will have to make the most of their chances against Argentina. Tight defending and trying to score on a set piece will be Iran’s recipe to earn a result.
Players to watch: Sergio Aguero didn’t really get going against Bosnia. He has a chance to overmatch the Iran defense and put his name into the Golden Boot race. Iran striker Reza Ghoochannejhad had four of Iran’s seven shots against Nigeria and is the best bet to score a goal for Iran.
Prediction: Argentina 4 (Aguero (2), Zabaleta, Higuain), Iran 0
This is going to be one-way traffic for Argentina and they should win easily behind a brace from Aguero.
Match: Germany vs. Ghana in Fortaleza
What to watch for: There were a lot of question marks surrounding Germany before the tournament with nagging injuries to several important players and uncertainty on who would start. Germany manager Jogi Low may have found a lineup that could win the World Cup in their first match. The trio of Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil showed that they can attack well without a true striker. Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira and Toni Kross controlled the center of the midfield. Three goals from Muller and playing the last 53 minutes a man up helped Germany dominate Portugal 4-0. Ghana played well against the United States. The Black Stars had 21 shots and 59 percent possession but were caught off guard by early and late USA goals in a 2-1 defeat. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Michael Essien started on the bench so they might get places in the starting 11 in a must-win situation.
Players to watch: The players to watch is related to a key matchup in this game. Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan is a pacey striker who challenged the United States center backs all evening. The German center back partnership of Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker might be the weakness of Germany’s loaded lineup. They weren’t challenged much by Portugal and will have mark Gyan closely.
Prediction: Germany 3 (Kroos, Ozil, Muller), Ghana 1 (Boateng)
Germany won their first match of the 2010 World Cup 4-0 against Australia. Five days later, they were shocked by Serbia and fell 1-0 before defeating Ghana in the third group match. I think Germany knows about the history and Low will have his team ready for this encounter. Kroos and Ozil will find the goal sheet, and Muller will pull ahead in the Golden Boot race. Kevin-Prince Boateng will score against his country of birth and against his brother’s, Jerome Boateng, team.
Match: Nigeria vs. Bosnia in Cuiaba
What to watch for: This match will likely decide who finishes second in Group F. Bosnia got the Argentina match out of the way. They struggled to produce in the final third but a late goal against Argentina could give them confidence in this match. Nigeria feels that they wasted an opportunity for three points against Iran. The chances were there but they weren’t able to make the most of their opportunities. Bosnia countered Argentina’s cautious lineup with a conservative one of their own. They played a 4-5-1 in friendlies and stuck with that to start the World Cup. Bosnia brought on striker Vedad Ibisevic in the second half as a substitute and he was the eventual goal scorer. Maybe Bosnia will start Ibisevic, who plays for Stuttgart, up top with Edin Dzeko. Nigeria might shake up their attack by starting EPL strikers Peter Odemwingie and/or Shola Ameobi. Both came on as substitutes for the Iran match.
Players to watch: Victor Moses could be a dangerous player for the Bosnia defense to deal with. Bosnia defender Sead Kolasinac scored the own goal early against Argentina and it will be important for him to have refocus and settle in early.
Prediction: Bosnia 2 (Dzeko, Pjanic), Nigeria 1 (Ameobi)
Bosnia had some positive moments against Argentina, and they will be well rested for this match. I think Bosnia will score the first two goals especially if they start two strikers. Ameobi will draw one back for Nigeria late.