Day 4 was a day of history for the 2014 World Cup. Each match featured a notable moment that will go down in the World Cup record books.
In the opening match, Switzerland's Haris Seferovic poked in a stoppage-time winner to give his team a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. ESPN FC's Twitter account has the clip:
As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Seferovic's stunning goal was a last-gasp effort unlike any the World Cup had ever seen:
In the second match, Karim Benzema notched two goals and contributed to a historic Honduras own goal that engineered the first use of goal-line technology in World Cup history. ESPN FC's Twitter account has the word on the historic merger of technology and the global game:
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
France won the game 3-0 against a Honduran side that spent the second half with just 10 men on the pitch.
Wilson Palacios—arguably Honduras' best overall player—earned two yellow cards in the first half. He knocked down France's Paul Pogba in the box for the second yellow, which drew the red card from the official's pocket and also awarded France a penalty kick. Benzema sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and buried the kick, giving France the only goal they would even need in this lopsided affair.
In the final match of the day, Argentina defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 in a hotly contested matchup. Bosnia and Herzegovina's Sead Kolasinac made history in a dubious manner by scoring the quickest own goal in World Cup history, just over two minutes into the match.
Argentina was unable to build upon the lead in the first half, as Messi and his countrymen struggled to muster a consistent attack. A couple of shrewd substitutions at the half by Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella gave the team the spark it needed, and Messi broke through with a goal in the 65th minute to double their advantage.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's Vedad Ibisevic would bring his team back within a goal in the 84th minute, but the favored Argentineans held on to move to the top of their group and end Day 4 on a high note.
Day 4 was full of intrigue and exciting performances; there is no doubt World Cup fever is at its peak following the slate of action.
Here are the updated group standings, odds and impact players from Day 4.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1||0||0||1||0|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||200-1|
(Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.)
Impact Players from Day 4
Karim Benzema, France
Benzema wasn't a member of France's 2010 World Cup squad that failed to make it out of the group stages, but he doesn't seem to mind erasing the memory of his country's disastrous performance in that contest. In fact, he might have assuaged his country's fears over Franck Ribery's absence from this tournament as well.
Benzema was excellent throughout the entire match against Honduras, leading the line, linking up with the midfield and creating havoc on Honduras' back line with his skillful movement and clever runs.
He scored two goals, one on a penalty and the other from the run of play. The Guardian's Amy Lawrence noted how Benzema's calm and excellent finish on the penalty kick was an important breakthrough for his team in the face of Honduras' physical play:
The breakthrough brought immense relief for a France team that had been frustrated and provoked (precariously so in the case of the altercation where Wilson Palacios goaded Paul Pogba’s self restraint – the precious midfielder might have seen red, before Palacios was eventually removed for his serial fouling). Honduras took no notice of the prevailing spirit of adventure that has finessed the opening to this World Cup.
Benzema also forced FIFA to use goal-line technology, which means his impact stretches beyond the result and into the realm of how the game is officiated.
Opta Sports' Twitter account has the roundup on Benzema's busy day in Brazil:
If Benzema can continue his superlative performance against Switzerland and Ecuador, France should have no trouble escaping the group stage and making a run in the knockout rounds.
Lionel Messi, Argentina
It would be tough for anyone on the Argentina squad to surpass Lionel Messi as the team's impact player, such is his influence on the team's attacking success. However, there was little to discuss
For 45 minutes, it didn't look like any Argentinean would be making an impact on the match. Argentina struggled to put together a fluid attack, and Messi was frustrated by double-teams and aggressive pressure every time he touched the ball.
Still, New York Times editor Andrew Das noted an instance of his passionate play in the first half:
Messi comes back to cover there, breaks up ball Dzeko was teeing up for.— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) June 15, 2014
The second half would prove to be where Messi truly made his mark. He linked up often with Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, who was brought on at halftime for the ineffective Maxi Rodriguez.
Messi's goal in the 65th minute was a thing of beauty and showed it takes just a moment of magic for Messi to make an impact on a game. Via ESPN FC's Twitter account:
Sabella noted that Messi played his best with support from his teammates.
"Messi is the best player in the world. It is not that he needs a lot. Beyond that there’s always a context and it can empower him a bit more," said Sabella, as per Liam Twomey of Goal.com. "In this case the support-he received a push from his colleagues which empowered him."
An empowered Messi is the most dangerous attacking threat in world football; look for Messi to continue to rack up goals throughout Argentina's run in the 2014 World Cup.