The 2014 World Cup continued to delight fans on Day 4 with enough goals, gaffes and grit to supply an entire week of international soccer action.
Switzerland needed a dramatic stoppage-time goal to defeat Ecuador 2-1, France made mincemeat of 10-man Honduras with a decisive 3-0 victory and Argentina held on to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 in the latter country's first appearance in a World Cup match.
After four days of World Cup action, there is a surprising leader in the chase for the Golden Boot, as per Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl:
"Own Goal" now leading the Golden Boot race with three. Nice job, OG.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 15, 2014
Yes, mistakes are bound to happen considering the crushing pressure these players face, but those unseemly errors still can't detract from the flashes of brilliance and historic events that defined Day 4 of the 2014 World Cup.
Here are the updated group tables, a list of upcoming fixtures and full recaps of the action on Day 4.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1||0||0||1||0|
|Germany vs. Portugal||June 16||12 p.m.||G|
|Iran vs. Nigeria||June 16||3 p.m.||F|
|United States vs. Ghana||June 16||6 p.m.||G|
|Belgium vs. Algeria||June 17||12 p.m.||H|
|Brazil vs. Mexico||June 17||3 p.m.||A|
|Russia vs. Korea Republic||June 17||6 p.m.||H|
|Australia vs. Netherlands||June 18||12 p.m.||B|
|Spain vs. Chile||June 18||3 p.m.||B|
|Croatia vs. Cameroon||June 18||6 p.m.||A|
|Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||June 19||12 p.m.||C|
|Uruguay vs. England||June 19||3 p.m.||D|
|Japan vs. Greece||June 19||6 p.m.||C|
|Italy vs. Costa Rica||June 20||12 p.m.||D|
|Switzerland vs. France||June 20||3 p.m.||E|
|Honduras vs. Ecuador||June 20||6 p.m.||E|
A full list of group-stage matches can be found at FIFA.com.
Day 4 Recaps
Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador
Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scored a brilliant goal late in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 victory over an energetic Ecuadorian squad.
ESPN Stats & Info relayed the historic nature of Seferovic's goal:
Switzerland spent the majority of the time on the ball in the first half, but it was Ecuador that struck first with a strong header from Enner Valencia in the 22nd minute. Ecuador held strong and walked off the field at halftime with a 1-0 lead.
It didn't take long for Switzerland to strike back in the second half, as Admir Mehmedi notched a thumping header of his own in the 48th minute to tie the game at 1-1.
New York Times editor Andrew Das noted the striking similarities between the two goals:
Ecuador marking on Switzerland's goal was just as Switzerland marking on Ecuador's. Free header from inside the six.— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) June 15, 2014
The favored Swiss continued to pepper Ecuadorian goalkeeper Maximo Banguera with shots, while Ecuador managed to conjure up some excellent combination plays of its own to unlock the Switzerland defense. Unfortunately, its clever efforts were all for naught in the second half.
The players eventually slowed in the muggy Brazilian heat, but there was still one final twist in the drama. SportsCenter's Twitter account has the highlight of Seferovic's thrilling goal in the 93rd minute:
It truly was a last-minute attack, as the referee blew the final whistle almost immediately after the restart, and the Ecuadorian players dropped to their knees, wondering how they could have let the game get away.
Switzerland will look at the stoppage-time stunner as justice for its superior play. The Swiss maintained possession for 62 percent of the match and outshot Ecuador 17 to 10 on the day, as per The New York Times.
Switzerland should head into Friday's match against France with plenty of confidence. Although it took the Swiss until the last minute to overcome Ecuador, they were the better team on the day and put on a fine display of attacking soccer.
Ecuador will look to salvage its World Cup chances against Honduras and should be a heavy favorite heading into that matchup.
France 3-0 Honduras
Karim Benzema bagged a brace and forced the World Cup to use goal-line technology for the first time to confirm a goal in France's resounding 3-0 victory over Honduras.
The first half of the match featured a surprising number of collisions between the two teams; there seemed to be more shin-kicking than ball-striking during several stretches of play.
France's Paul Pogba and Honduras' Wilson Palacios both took turns beating each other up in midfield. Eventually, it was Pogba who got the better of the rampaging Honduran.
Palacios earned a second yellow card and was therefore sent off after crashing into Pogba's back just before halftime. To make matters worse, the scene of the crime took place in his team's own penalty box, and Benzema stepped up to take the penalty kick for France.
Benzema confidently buried the shot, and Honduras walked off the pitch at halftime down a goal and a man. Palacios' performance drew this reaction from The Telegraph's Jonathan Liew:
An astonishing half of football from Wilson Palacios. All men die, but that half will live forever.— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) June 15, 2014
The second-half effort was commendable, but any dreams of a surprise result for Honduras were dashed as soon as Palacios drew the dreaded red card.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris spent the majority of his day rooted to one spot in front of his own net—not much of a problem since Honduras could barely muster an attack against France.
France grew bolder with each passing minute; Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema and Yohan Cabaye all looked excellent linking up in the attacking half of the pitch.
Benzema ripped a shot in the 48th minute that bounced off one post and into the path of Honduran goalie Noel Valladares, who appeared to inadvertently knock the ball across the line and into his own goal. The goal-line technology confirmed the ball went over the line, and ESPN FC's Twitter relayed the historic nature of the event:
Reminder that goal-line technology was used for the first time at a World Cup finals to prove a goal: http://t.co/YpbCSV1uJm— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 15, 2014
Benzema added his second goal in the 72nd minute to complete the commanding victory.
Honduras' disastrous result ends CONCACAF's early run of victories in the World Cup (Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0 on Day 2, and Costa Rica upset Uruguay a day later). It will have a difficult time against Ecuador and Switzerland in its remaining Group E matchups. Honduras will be lucky to score in the 2014 World Cup and should cherish the moment if it does.
France will now take on Switzerland in a match that will go a long way toward deciding which team comes out on top in Group E. Les Bleus should be confident after their strong performance; hopefully, they've put the memory of their disastrous display at the 2010 World Cup completely behind them.
Argentina 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina wasted little time sealing its own fate, scoring the quickest own goal in World Cup history en route to their 2-1 defeat to Argentina.
This is the first World Cup appearance for Bosnia-Herzegovina; the players are surely disappointed they couldn't make a better first impression on the global stage.
They began the game with an embarrassing own goal from Sead Kolasinac in just the third minute of play. It truly was a shame for Bosnia-Herzegovina, considering how long it took Argentina to get into the flow of the game afterward. ESPN FC's Twitter has the highlight of the own goal:
Lionel Messi faced double-teams nearly every time he touched the ball, and fellow attackers Angel di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez did little to support him in the first half. ESPN Stats & Info shed light on Messi's early struggles:
It's difficult to keep the best player in the world down for long, as Messi righted the ship for Argentina and delivered it a two-goal advantage with a sumptuous strike in the 65th minute of play.
Bosnia-Herzegovina played well and managed to force Argentina to commit a number of fouls in the second half.
Bosnia-Herzegovina finally broke through in the 84th minute of play, with Vedad Ibisevic sending a low strike past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero to cut the lead in half and give his squad some life in the final minutes of play.
Argentina managed to hold on for the victory and will look to dominate the group stage with arguably its toughest defensive opponent out of the way.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will have to find ways to get striker Edin Dzeko more involved; Opta Sports' soccer-focused Twitter account showed just how vital he is to the team's attack:
14 - No player was involved in more goals than Edin Dzeko in the European qualifiers (14 – 10 goals and four assists). Diamond.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 15, 2014
It still has a chance to make it out of the group, provided it takes care of business against Iran and Nigeria. The loss to Argentina will make things difficult, and Bosnia-Herzegovina should be wary of a dangerous Nigerian squad featuring the likes of Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and Liverpool's Victor Moses in midfield.