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World Cup, day ten

Lionel Messi: two goals, two wins
Lionel Messi: two goals, two wins
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Another surprising day at the Brazilian World Cup provided us with more controversial officiating and some insight into the tournament’s next stages by showing us what was behind the curtains of the teams’ first games.

We found out that Argentina simply is not clicking yet and seems fully dependent upon some Lionel Messi magic to progress. Either the team will wake up and play to its potential or there will be a team down the line that takes advantage of the Argentine’s poor performances. For now, being in the weakest group, they can skate without discomfort, but two games hence they will need to be firing on more than one cylinder.

For Iran, who should have had a penalty called against Argentina in its 1-0 loss the defeat was a bitter and unearned pill. The tournament was supposed to be difficult for the Iranians as they were considered the weakest side in the weakest group, but they have played well and should have had at least a tie in their match today.

The officiating is still making headlines and distracting all from the games as the central aspect of the tournament. If the poor calls we have experienced so far continue the integrity of the World Cup will be brought into question. FIFA’s response to the Brazilian courts about allowing water breaks, which was that they “planned on applying” their own rules, was a clumsy answer to the simple question of why they had not done so despite the obvious conditions.

Similarly, for a World Cup in which FIFA has been critical of Brazil’s cup preparations, claiming they are incomplete despite the long lead time, the international organization has left a lot to be desired on their end too. FIFA’s revocation last year of Rio de Janeiro’s lab accreditation to process drug testing samples, which has required the organizers to fly samples to Switzerland for testing, seems indicative not so much of the host’s deficiencies as of FIFA’s inability to find a local solution despite having a year’s lead time.

Another find, this time on the pitch, was seeing Germany react to what will be the trend of games to come, the heat and humidity and tougher contenders in the way. Germany reacted well and earned a draw but they were playing Ghana who should not have been as strong an opponent as they were. Ghana showed that they were tougher than expected and their draw with tournament favorites Germany was well deserved. The Africans showed the Germans were vulnerable but they also allowed future opponents to see how the Europeans are capable of pulling out favorable results regardless of the conditions or situation.

Nigeria and Bosnia did not disappoint. They provided an entertaining game with chances on both sides and a clearly purposeful style of play on both sides. The game was decided in the first half when an off sides call nullified a Bosnian goal at the 22nd minute, when subsequent replays showed there was no such off sides. Then, seven minutes later Emmanuel Emenike gets past Bosnian captain, Emir Spahic, on the right wing and crosses to Peter Odemwingie who scores between the legs of Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, at the 29th minute. Nigeria 1, Bosnia 0. Bosnia, now with two losses, is thus eliminated by a bad officiating call and Nigeria moves on with four points. Iran will play Bosnia and Nigeria will play Argentina with the results deciding whether Iran or Nigeria move on.

Tomorrow, in the first game of the day, we get to see Belgium and Russia dispute the leadership of Group H. In the second game, Korea Republic and Algeria will dispute who still has hope of progressing in the same group as the former two. In the game with top billing, the USA plays Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo’s side in a life and death situation while the USA, with three points, has more options, but will probably play for the win given their last game will be against Germany.

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