The 2014 World Cup has gotten off to a high-flying start through three days of play, and that's only continued on into Sunday's Day 4.
The host country, Brazil, kicked things off on Thursday with a 3-1 comeback victory over Croatia. Netherlands followed that up with a shocking 5-1 defeat over defending champion Spain on the second day. And Italy stood tall to defeat England for an early leg up in Group D. But those are far from the only matches of excitement and importance through the opening three days.
Controversial calls have taken center stage and multiple powerhouses have fallen early on, but the thrilling, back-and-forth matches so far in Brazil have only set the stage for more excitement entering Day 4—which includes three matches on tap.
Here's a look at the updated group standings from Day 4.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||-1||1||0||0||1|
Day 4 Results
Switzerland 2, Ecuador 1
Switzerland and Ecuador went back and forth in the opening match of Group E, and the match looked doomed for a draw heading into stoppage time after the Swiss equalized early in the second half. But then the Swiss remembered that they're playing in the World Cup of comebacks and scored a late winner to grab the 2-1 victory and all three points for an early Group E lead.
ESPN FC captured the 93rd-minute goal:
GOAL!!!!! With seconds left, #SUI go the length of the pitch and score the go-ahead goal in injury time! Haris Seferovic! 2-1!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 15, 2014
The Swiss barreled down the field just after Ecuador nearly scored the winner, and with seconds left before the referee's whistle, they went in front.
Men in Blazers perfectly described the state of the World Cup in 2014, with early-scoring teams often coming up short:
Whatever you do in this World Cup DON'T SCORE TOO EARLY— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) June 15, 2014
Sunday's opener matched up two teams that aren't exactly known for their scoring prowess. Switzerland scored just 17 times in 10 World Cup qualifiers, and Ecuador netted 20 in 16 matches.
The match reflected that early on. Neither team threatened with any scoring chance of substance in the opening 20 minutes, and it was shaping up to be the least exciting game thus far in Brazil.
That changed in an instant in the 22nd minute, when Ecuador executed a brilliant set piece to go in front. Walter Ayovi crossed it from the left, and Enner Valencia broke through to head it home for a 1-0 lead.
Switzerland dominated possession 66-34 in the first half, but they couldn't find an equalizer heading into the half-time break.
But the sixth-ranked team in the FIFA rankings wasn't going to go down without a fight. The Swiss equalized quickly in the 47th minute off a header from Admir Mehmedi, which Footy Vines captured:
Mehmedi nods home Switzerland's equaliser after some poor defending https://t.co/DR8ssjYpiJ— Footy Vines.com (@Footy_Vines_) June 15, 2014
What's more, Mehmedi had just been subbed on, meaning he was on the pitch for hardly two minutes before scoring per OptaJoe:
121 - Admir Mehmedi had been on the pitch for just 121 seconds before scoring for #SUI. Impact.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 15, 2014
Switzerland stayed on the attack to try and find a winner, and Ecuador would match them with their speed on the counter-attack. A few solid opportunities came on each end, but none were serious enough to threaten to break the stalemate.
That is, until stoppage time came, and the Swiss went in front for good off Haris Seferovic's goal.
The Swiss were tested early and often against a speedy and talented Ecuadorian attack, but one of the best defenses in the World Cup held strong after an early slip-up. They needed their offense to come through, though, which it did at long last.
Three points were crucial for Switzerland heading into their next matchup against France—undoubtedly the best team in their group. Any sort of result there could put them in a great position heading into the final group stage match against Honduras.
Meanwhile, Ecuador have to be feeling dismayed after going up early and fighting so hard to get a late winner, only to come out with no points.
France 3, Honduras 0
Karim Benzema has seen his ups and downs for the French national team in his playing career, but their hopes of making a deep run in Brazil seemingly hinge on his broad shoulders. He was magnificent in his World Cup debut, scoring two and impacting the third goal in a 3-0 win over Honduras.
Bleacher Report UK summed it up:
France had no trouble dictating the match's pace early on with a plethora of quality scoring chances, but couldn't break through and looked frustrated heading into halftime.
Then, opportunity came. Wilson Palacios brought down Paul Pogba in the box for his second yellow card of the game, leaving Honduras with 10 men for the rest of the match and Benzema with a penalty that he confidently put into the net for a 1-0 lead.
It was Benzema again forcing a French goal early in the second half. He ripped a shot off the post that trickled toward the goal line, and goalkeeper Noel Valladares pulled it back just too late as France took a 2-0 lead.
Goal-line technology was used for the first time in the incident, allowing the goal to be called when it was simply too close to decipher, as Footy Vines captured:
Ah, goal-line technology. How did we ever live without it. pic.twitter.com/Sl2jbj1O60— Footy Vines.com (@Footy_Vines_) June 15, 2014
France continued to control things on into the second half despite holding a two-goal lead. Honduras was simply too gassed having to make up for their lost midfielder, and it showed in one last goal when Benzema broke through and put one right over Valladares for a 3-0 lead.
It was a beautiful display of team football from France entering a group that they should easily win, and their 69-31 possession advantage bodes well against defensive-minded Switzerland coming up.
As for Honduras, they'll face Ecuador next and if either end up with a defeat, they'll most likely be eliminated from advancing past the group stage.
Argentina 2, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1
The Argentinians were given the great gift of a Bosnia-Herzegovina own goal in the opening minutes, and although it was the only goal for two thirds of the game, Lionel Messi eventually added a second to send his side to a 2-1 victory Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.
Bleacher Report UK tweeted the result:
Argentina quickly got off to a 1-0 lead thanks to the foot of Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac. The Argentinian attack put an attempt near the goal and it bounced off Kolasinac's foot in the third minute.
That was about it for Argentina in the first half, and their offense looked lethargic at times as Bosnia-Herzegovina had little trouble getting into the attacking third with potent attacks.
Argentina looked threatened to give up an equalizer, until their knight in shining armor came through.
After being frustrated through much of the contest, Messi broke through in the 65th minute by dancing to the top of the box and firing one off the post and into the net for a 2-0 Argentine lead as ESPN SportsCenter captured:
Messi's World Cup goal today was his 2nd of career; 1st came 8 years ago in World Cup debut against Serbia. pic.twitter.com/oID5OQ3vMq— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 16, 2014
That goal seemed to be the insurance that the heavy favorite needed, as a snoozer of a match ensued for the final 20 or so minutes until Bosnia finally broke through in the 84th minute off Vedad Ibisevic's left-footed goal.
Were you impressed with Argentina?
But it wasn't nearly enough for the underdogs to pose any serious threat. They were certainly threatening for much of the contest, but when Messi added the game's second goal, it was all but over.
Argentina weren't at their best on Sunday, but still came through with three points against arguably their most dangerous Group F opponent. Having Messi come through in a clutch moment when there wasn't much offense to speak of just speaks of how much he's grown since the last World Cup, and Argentina certainly hope he keeps that up moving forward.
Bosnia-Herzegovina still have matches against Nigeria and Iran to look forward to, and both will be much easier in terms of opposing talent than Sunday's match was. But after coming up short in a hard-fought contest, they'll have to recover quickly to avoid falling further behind in the group.
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