Tuesday was an eventful day at the World Cup for good and bad reasons. Uruguay’s victory over Italy was overshadowed by Luis Suarez’s apparent bite Giorgio Chiellini. This story will continue all week and I assume there will be extra discipline for Suarez, who wasn’t punished at the time of the incident. Greece pulled off heroics in the later games of the day with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on a last minute penalty kick. They are through to the round of 16 to play Costa Rica. Group E and Group F wraps up on Wednesday.
Argentina are in the round of 16 and need at least a draw to win the group. Bosnia were surprisingly eliminated after only two matches. Nigeria will progress to the knockout stage with at least one point or a Iran draw or loss.
Match: Nigeria vs. Argentina in Salvador
What to watch for: Nigeria took advantage of a disallowed Bosnia goal, and held strong defensively to put themselves in great position to finish second in the group. The Super Eagles are fortunate to play Argentina in the last group match after earning four points in their first two games. Argentina hasn’t impressed anyone in their two wins at the World Cup. Their blushes were spared by Lionel Messi whose late moment of magic gave Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran. La Albiceleste need Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria to play better. The Argentina defense looked vulnerable at times against Iran so Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike could have a few scoring chances. I think Argentina will struggle again but break through twice in the second half.
Prediction: Argentina 2 (Aguero, Higuain), Nigeria 0
Match: Bosnia vs. Iran in Salvador
What to watch for: Bosnia started well against Nigeria and scored a goal that was ruled out on a phantom offsides call. Then they conceded a goal shortly after and probably switched to a 4-4-2 too late in the second half. Iran defended so well against Argentina and created a few decent scoring chances of their own. However, they fell victim to a great shot by Lionel Messi and now need to win to stay alive. Bosnia has nothing to play for and Iran have trouble scoring. This feels like a goalless stalemate.
Prediction: Bosnia 0, Iran 0
No one is this group has mathematically clinched a round of 16 berth or been eliminated from the tournament. France is on the verge with six points and a goal differential of +6. They will likely win the group and can make that official with a point. Ecuador and Switzerland have three points, and Honduras has zero. Honduras needs to win and have France beat Ecuador to give them hope.
Match: Honduras vs. Switzerland in Manaus
What to watch for: This is the fourth and final game of this tournament in humid Manaus. Honduras played better against Ecuador than they did against France, and were unlucky to not at least get a draw. Switzerland’s defense had a forgettable performance against France. They need to rebound with a win and help their goal differential just in case Ecuador matches their result. The two late goals against France could end up being big for the Swiss.
Prediction: Switzerland 1 (Xhaka), Honduras 0
Match: Ecuador vs. France in Rio De Janeiro
What to watch for: Ecuador got the necessary three points against Honduras after a heartbreaking loss to Switzerland. Now they face tournament darlings France who have been the best team of the World Cup through two games. Ecuador’s defense must be at their best to try to stop an attack led by Karim Benzema. France might play a safe game knowing they just need a point to win the group. Ecuador will play well but will be overmatched and eliminated form the World Cup.
Prediction: France 2 (Sissoko, Giroud), Ecuador 1 (Caicedo)