As the group stages of the 2014 World Cup draw to a close we review another night of World Cup action that threw up goals, sending offs and thrillers. Groups E and F have been finalised and in Group E there was an indirect showdown between Ecuador and Switzerland over who joined France in the last 16.
Unfortunately for Ecuador they had to contest with France in their last group game, which gave Switzerland an immediate advantage as they faced Honduras. Ecuador’s task was made all the more difficult when Antonio Valencia was sent off for a lunge on Lucas Digne, although commendably they managed to hold out for a 0-0 draw after keeper Alexander Dominguez produced a string of fine saves to deny the French.
Ecuador’s inability to produce any serious threat to French handed the initiative to Switzerland who dispatched Honduras thanks to a hat trick from Xherdan Shaqiri who scored a peach within 6 minutes to set the Swiss on their way.
Group F managed to provide a thriller, surprisingly from the two teams who were already through in Argentina and Nigeria. It was a real ding-dong battle with 1 goal each in two 1st half minutes and it was the same again at the start of the 2nd half. Bosnia’s 3-1 win over Iran proved academic as both nations were already condemned to play out a dead-rubber but it still produced goals, and yes Edin Džeko did score!
The Guts Award goes to Nigeria for running Argentina close and no one could have begrudged them at least an equaliser after a number of chances were created and they created endless problems for the Argentinian defence. Pablo Zabaleta at times was almost a 1-man barrier throwing himself in front of everything that Nigeria had to offer.
Nigeria also displayed how much African football has developed after their forward Ahmed Musa scored two composed finishes and showed that Nigeria will at least pose a test for their last-16 opponents.
A relatively simple award to determine after the Ecuadorian winger produced a late lunge on French left-back Lucas Digne and got himself sent off for his trouble. It was an incredibly stupid act from the national team captain and from an experienced player too.
Young players can be forgiven for mistakes such as this as they sometimes act rash in their eagerness to impress and try their best, however, Valencia was leading his country into a do-or-die clash vs. the group leaders – it was an incredibly naïve thing to do from a 28 year-old who was supposed to set an example to his teammates.
Xherdan Shaqiri produced a stunning goal to set his team on the way to a 3-0 win over Honduras and a last-16 place. Picking the ball up on the right wing and drifting inside all the while being pressured from the Honduran defence and heading slightly away from goal, Shaqiri produced a wonderful curling shot that deposited itself into the top corner of the goal. It was a truly wonderful strike and one of the best so far in World Cup 2014.
Ecuador never really tested France at all apart from one occasion in the 2nd half of their game in which Ecuador broke with speed and then proceeded to ruin the chance by producing a tame shot wide. They were fighting for their World Cup place, knowing that they needed a win to be sure of staying in the competition.
However, they produced a display which mirrored the ability of their chances within the game and apart from their keeper, not one of them seemed to step up to the mark of producing their best. France were equally happy that Ecuador allowed them to ‘train’ with the ball at their feet and allow them the time and space to practise attacking moves without pressure on the ball at all.
Categories: world cup