The first nine days of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil have been exciting and unpredictable to say the least, but there is plenty left to be solved before the group stage reaches its conclusion.
Although a few teams are already through to the knockout round, there is a great deal of uncertainty among some of the tournament's top teams.
What happens in the coming days will have a major impact on the rest of the World Cup moving forward, particularly the Day 10 slate.
A pair of top contenders will be in action in the form of Argentina and Germany with chances to punch their ticket to the next stage. Add in an intriguing encounter between Nigeria and upstart Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it is clear that Saturday is a dream day for soccer fans.
Along with predictions for how all eight groups will ultimately play out, here is a preview of the three matches that will captivate the soccer world Saturday in Brazil.
|2014 World Cup Group Outcome Projections|
|F||Argentina||Bosnia & Herzegovina||Nigeria||Iran|
Day 10 Preview
Argentina vs. Iran
Perhaps no squad in Brazil is equipped with more attacking talent than Argentina. La Albiceleste are capable of running teams ragged and scoring at will when they are banging on all cylinders.
It took a while for Argentina to come alive in its opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the squad started to gel in a 2-1 victory and it seems like the best is yet to come.
Argentina will face an Iranian team Saturday that managed to gut its way to a scoreless draw with Nigeria. Iran isn't blessed with much goal-scoring ability, but it is disciplined and great at holding its defensive shape.
It will look to bog down the Argentinians, but superstar Lionel Messi is hopeful that he and his teammates will generate plenty of opportunities.
According to Sky Sports, Messi's preference is for head coach Alejandro Sabella to utilize a 4-3-3 for the entire match against Iran after the tactic was successful in the second half of the Bosnia match:
As strikers, we prefer that system as it gives us more attacking opportunities and if we don't use that system we suffer a bit.
We as strikers favor that lineup. In the first half I was often on my own and so was Kun (Aguero) and it was very difficult, so there are things to be improved on.
We are Argentina and I think we have to focus on ourselves and not on who we're facing. Of course depending on the result of a game we can change to another system. But personally I think we need to look at ourselves first and not focus on the rival.
Despite Argentina's struggles at times against Bosnia, Messi seemed encouraged. Bosnia is certainly no pushover, so Messi was happy to get in the win column, per ESPN's Miguel Delaney:
This match figures to be an extremely difficult one for Iran. Perhaps it can do some damage on the counter-attack, but it is likely that the Iranians will be under siege for much of the contest. Iran may be able to hold off Argentina for a while, but the pressure will prove to be too great as Argentina rolls to a 3-0 triumph.
Germany vs. Ghana
After dismantling Portugal by a 4-0 score in its World Cup opener, Germany established itself as what many consider to be the World Cup favorite. If the Germans fail to capitalize on that huge win, though, it will be a moot point.
Germany can book a spot in the next round with another victory, and it is hopeful to score that win Saturday against Ghana.
The Black Stars seemed poised to steal a point against the United States after a late marker tied things up, but a John Brooks header gave Team USA the win and stacked the odds against Ghana. The Ghanaian side will be desperate for at least a point against Germany, but it will take expert defending to earn such a result.
One thing that could work in Ghana's favor, however, is the fact that Germany may be without defender Mats Hummels due to injury, according to SuperSport Blitz:
Hummels is a key part of Germany's back line and it could be susceptible to a speedy Ghana team if the solid center-back is forced to sit. If Ghana tries to turn the match into a track meet, though, Germany most definitely has the means to use that to its advantage.
There is no question that Ghana is a dangerous team, but attackers such as Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil have found great synergy for Germany and will help Die Mannschaft score a 3-1 win.
Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina
Nobody was quite sure what to expect out of Bosnia-Herzegovina in its first-ever World Cup, but Zmajevi played well against a stacked Argentinian squad.
Bosnia fell short in a 2-1 loss, but most would probably agree that the Bosnians are favored to advance out of the group stage along with Argentina over Nigeria and Iran.
From a pure talent perspective, Bosnia is far superior to Iran as well as Nigeria, both of whom are ahead of Bosnia right now by virtue of a draw. Among those who believe Bosnia to advance despite their current residency at the bottom of the group is Vasalund midfielder Bojan Djodjic:
It is difficult to argue with that notion as the combination of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic figures to overwhelm lesser opponents. Nigeria certainly has some talent, but it looked terrible in its final pre-Cup match against the United States and was pretty punchless against Iran as well.
Nigeria is likely to play a defensive match in hopes of picking up another draw, but Bosnia will smell blood in the water.
As long as the Bosnians decide to attack and impose their will, they will win 2-0 and put themselves in prime position to advance.
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