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2014 World Cup Roundup: Algeria, Nigeria reach last 16, Ghana gone
France 0-0 Ecuador
In the first of two Group E games being played simultaneously, France and 10-man Ecuador battled their way to a 0-0 draw. Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia was sent off for the South Americans in the 5oth minute for a planting his studs into Lucas Digne’s leg, as the Ecuadorians failed to score the two goals that would have propelled them into second place on goal difference.
Honduras 0-3 Switzerland
An impressive Xherdan Shaqiri hat-trick was more than enough to overpower a poor Honduras side, as Switzerland sealed their progression into the round of sixteen. The Bayern Munich winger opened the scoring in the sixth minute after he unleashed a powerful shot from outside the area that brushed the underside of the crossbar and settled in the corner.
25 minutes later, he doubled his side’s lead as he latched on to a through ball and swept home between goalkeeper Vallardes’ legs. The second half would see Honduras try to get back in the game, but despite a reasonable penalty call and a goal line clearance by Switzerland defender Rodriguez, the Swiss held on to their clean sheet and even extended their lead when Drmic crossed low into the box for Shaqiri to score the third goal of the night and complete the 50th hattrick in World Cup history.
Group F also came to a conclusion on Wednesday evening as Nigeria became the first African team to advance to the knockout stages in this edition of the World Cup despite losing to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina side. Messi opened the scoring in the 3rd minute when he lashed a rebound into the roof of the net, and it looked like Nigeria were going to be overrun. Any such fears were instantly dispelled, however, when Ahmed Musa seized upon some poor Argentine defending to curl in a delightful effort just over a minute later.
Argentina launched wave after wave of attacks after the leveller, and just when Messi looked like he was going to go into the half-time break with just one goal – thanks to some good goalkeeping by Enyeama – the Barcelona forward curled a free-kick over the wall and into the corner deep into first half stoppage time to give his side the lead for the second time in the game.
Nigeria came flying out of the blocks after the break, and Musa scored his second to bring Nigeria back on level terms in the 47th minute, but the parity did not last long; Marcos Rojo bundled the ball past Enyeama from a corner three minutes later. Ten minutes later, Messi was withdrawn from the game as Sabella’s men played out the remainder of the game without scoring or conceding again.
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 Iran
World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina bowed out of the tournament with a convincing 3-1 win over Iran. Iran needed a win to finish above Nigeria in second place, but Edin Dzeko opened the scoring for the team from Southeastern Europe halfway through the first half, and they never looked back.
Miralem Pjanić doubled the lead with 30 minutes to go, and after Reza Ghoochannejhad halved the deficit 8 minutes from the final whistle, Avdija Vršajević restored the two-goal cushion immediately afterwards to help his side end their campaign on a high.
USA 0-1 Germany
Joachim Löw lead Germany to a narrow win over Group G rivals USA against his former mentor Klinsmann, as both teams finished in the top two spots ahead of Portugal and Ghana. Right from the start, it was apparent that the USA were playing for a draw that would see them through regardless of the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana game. Nevertheless, Thomas Muller’s 4th goal of the tournament – a strike that puts him on top of the scoring charts with Messi and Neymar – proved to be the difference between the two teams.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended his mini-drought for Portugal, as he helped his team to a 2-1 win over Ghana. Defender John Boye turned the ball past his own goalkeeper in the 31st minute, but Asamoah Gyan’s equaliser right after the halftime break restored hope for Black Stars supporters.
A comeback win – coupled with progression to the next round – was not to be though, and Ronaldo pounced upon some comical goalkeeping from Fatau Dawuda to earn his side their first and only win in Brazil. The Iberians have the same amount of points as second – placed USA, but have been eliminated on goal difference.
Algeria 1-1 Russia
Vahid Halilhodzic’s Algeria took on Russia on Thursday evening as both teams looked to occupy second place and accompany Belgium into the round of sixteen. Russia took an early lead through Alexander Kokorin, as the Dinamo Moscow attacker rose to head home team-mate Kombarov’s cross. Algeria had a glorious chance to equalise from a corner a few minutes before half-time, but Slimani’s header was straight at goalkeeper Akinfeev.
After the break, the Desert Foxes pushed forward in search of an equaliser and got one in the 61st minute; Islam Slimani took advantage of some fatal indecision on Akinfeev’s part and headed the ball into an empty net. Algeria sat back after the goal, and despite a few scares, the Northern Africans managed to hang on and seal their first ever qualification to the knockout stages in World Cup history.
Korea 0-1 Belgium
A much-changed Belgium side managed to grind out a 1-0 against Korea, despite playing with ten men for the entire second half. Steven Defour was sent off for an ugly challenge at the end of the first half as he stepped Kim Shinwook’s shin.
Captain Jan Vertonghen got on the end of a rebound in the 78th minute to score and clinch the three points for the Red Devils. After tonight’s victory, Belgium have now won all three group stage games for the first time in their history, and they could be considered favorites in their round of 16 tie vs the USA.