World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 4
By now, common consensus holds the 2014 FIFA World Cup as one of the best, if not the best, in recent memory. The goals, great games and talking points just keep on coming as we've now rolled through Day 4 of the tournament.
Sunday saw Switzerland mount a 2-1 comeback victory in the last minute against Ecuador, while France rolled over Honduras by a 3-0 scoreline. The day's final match saw Argentina and tournament debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina do battle, with Lionel Messi scoring the winner in a 2-1 outcome for his side.
Here are all the biggest winners and losers from the latest day of action in Brazil.
Loser: Stephan Lichtsteiner
Switzerland full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner is a regular for Juventus, one of the top teams in Europe, but he had an absolutely rotten day at the office in the Swiss side's victory over Ecuador.
It started early, when he twice burst into space down the right flank, only to dig out horrid crosses which went straight behind for goal kicks. It didn't really get any better from there.
His ball use was unimaginative in the final third, he was beaten for pace and movement by Ecuador's wide attackers, especially Jefferson Montero, and he didn't put over a single useful cross for his team-mates to attack.
Winner: Ottmar Hitzfeld's In-Game Management
For a manager, decisions have to be made as to how you think your side may best beat the opposition on the day, but even the world's top head coaches don't get their starting XI right every time.
When that happens, management from the sidelines is vital—and Ottmar Hitzfeld enjoyed either the fortune or the foresight to get it spot on on his side's opening day.
Both of his offensive substitutions—one at the break and one late in the game—made quick impacts to score goals for Switzerland, earning them a 2-1 win from behind.
Loser: Clarke Carlisle
Presumably, it shouldn't be too much to ask for national television channels to employ match-day commentators and pundits who know their stuff.
Mistakes can happen, sure, but could they at least be acknowledged, corrected, apologised for, perhaps?
Or just completely overlooked. Or not even noticed.
Clarke Carlisle intimated during the Switzerland-Ecuador match that the South American side were second-favourites to progress from the group partly on account of their depth in attack—because, apparently, Porto striker Jackson Martinez couldn't even get in the team.
Yes, the Jackson Martinez who came on as a substitute earlier in the World Cup.
Winner: Goal-Line Technology
After years of arguing for its inclusion, goal-line technology is in operation and functioning at the World Cup.
It awarded its first goal, too, as Karim Benzema's shot early in the second half hit the far post, bounced along the line, struck goalkeeper Noel Valladares on the arm and bounced back...over the line, said the technology and the referee's watch.
Some may argue, some may refuse to acknowledge it was in, but we asked for it, we've got it, let's embrace it.
Loser: Wilson Palacios and Honduras' Strong-Arm Tactics
Honduras had two players booked and one other sent off—Wilson Palacios, for two yellows—in what was probably the day's biggest mystery.
The mystery, of course, being how they didn't have about five yellows and at least two reds.
During the course of the game, they committed 14 fouls to France's 13, but the viciousness and blatant cynicism of some of the CONCACAF side's transgressions left an awful lot to be desired, as did referee Sandro Meira Ricci's reluctance to bring the book out more often.
Nobody wants to see unnecessary dismissals or suspensions, but Honduras can count themselves lucky that Emilio Izaguirre at the very least did not join Palacios in missing the next game through suspension.
Winner: Everyone Who Came to See Messi
Make no mistake—a large number of folks will be travelling to Brazil for the pleasure of seeing Argentina's Lionel Messi in the flesh, hoping to see him shine and bring World Cup glory to Argentina.
An intermittent success in the first half, mixing a few dribbles with some misplaced passes, Messi was better able to make use of his vision and creativity after the break, when Argentina altered their system.
A fine dribble after the hour mark saw him swap passes with Gonzalo Higuain, run past two more Bosnia players and plant a fine finish in off the post for 2-0. It was a classic Messi goal, and one which clearly released a lot of emotion for the forward.
Loser: Tactical Changes for Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina
Argentina went through much of their qualifying campaign using a back four, two forwards and Leo Messi in behind.
Bosnia and Herzegovina mainly used a 4-4-2, utilising their two strikers, Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic, to great effect.
Both nations switched for their opening World Cup game (and pre-tournament warmups) to use a 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1, respectively, but it didn't work at all well in either case. Bosnia couldn't get players forward in support of Dzeko quickly enough and were slow after transitions, while there were too few runners beyond Messi for Argentina to make use of him opening up space.
It was no surprise when Alejandro Sabella opted to revert to his usual system at half-time.
Winner: Going for the Victory
Four days and 11 games into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and we still haven't had a drawn match yet!
The sight of positive, offensive-minded football—even when that is counter-attacking with intent to get players forward quickly—is superb to see. It makes for interesting tactical match-ups and is providing viewers with an average of more than three goals per game so far—37 in total.
Long may that trend continue!