Saturday's 2014 World Cup action will center on Group F and its four teams, while Germany can take a strong option on the overall spot in Group G with a win over Ghana.
Argentina are in an excellent position to walk away with Group F, but the race for the second ticket to the knockout stages is still wide open, with all three teams separated by just a single point.
Germany looked absolutely dominant in their 4-0 win over Portugal and will now face a Ghana team fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the USA.
The Black Stars will need to shock the world in order to make it to the next round, but this World Cup has been full of surprises so far.
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Home||Away|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Argentina||Iran|
|8 p.m.||3 p.m.||Germany||Ghana|
|11 p.m.||6 p.m.||Nigeria||Bosnia-Herzegovina|
Argentina's Defence Will Finally Get the Chance to Build Some Confidence
Bosnia-Herzegovina deserve a ton of credit for the way they played the heavily favoured Argentine squad in their opening match. It was a tense affair, the Albiceleste didn't get a ton of chances and the world's best group of attackers was largely contained for the full 90 minutes.
What people may have failed to notice, however, was that Argentina's defence looked pedestrian at best.
The back four was struggling coming into the tournament, and their first 90 minutes against Bosnia showed pundits nothing to suggest the group had grown into a cohesive unit.
Alejandro Sabella decided on fielding a unit with five at the back, but it didn't seem to help matters. Via ESPN FC's Miguel Delaney, the coach confirmed Argentina will start in a standard 4-3-3 against Iran:
Sabella: "I always say the same. Our formation is 4-3-3 but if we need to change we’ll change."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) June 20, 2014
Iran are a well-organised, defensive team who don't give up a lot of chances and don't take many risks. Given Argentina's host of talented forwards, the Albiceleste should be able to force some open looks against the Iranian team, but more importantly, their midfield should be in full control of possession.
That means little to no pressure on the back four, who will instead get to contribute to the attack and sniff out counter opportunities.
This won't be a test of Argentina's defensive prowess—instead, it will give the group a chance to play carefree football, and to build some much-needed confidence heading into the knockout stages.
Germany Will Dominate the Centre of the Pitch—Again
Travelling to Brazil with only one true striker and a number of players who do most of their damage in the middle part of the pitch takes some guts, but Joachim Low decided to stay true to the formula that had worked for the Germans in the past.
Despite a rash of injuries, the gamble paid off. Portugal had no answer for Germany's possession football, the quick outlet passes and the movement of Thomas Muller and Mario Goetze.
The 4-0 final score accurately portrayed what we had seen on the pitch—Die Mannschaft dominated Portugal into submission.
Ghana's 2-1 loss to the USA highlighted a number of flaws in the team, most notably their reliance on overlapping runs from the full-backs. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones easily controlled the action in the centre, and the Black Stars needed to introduce Kevin-Prince Boateng just to get a grip of the midfield battle.
Kwadwo Asamoah is a sensational player, but by playing him at left-back, Ghana are effectively limiting the damage he can do offensively.
Against the Germans and their skilled group of midfielders, the Black Stars need the Juventus man to help out further up the pitch.
Via football-italia, even the man himself thinks it's a bad idea to play him in defence:
Everyone knows the role in which I can give my best. I’ve never liked playing in defence but when you are asked to do so what can you do?
I think I am one of the players on the pitch with the most quality and I am very useful when I help out in attack.
I don’t like playing in defence and I don’t think I can help the team there. My role is offensive.
But even if Ghana move Asamoah further up the pitch, Germany's midfield is just too good. Look for Die Mannschaft to keep the ball away from the sidelines as much as possible, essentially taking away Ghana's biggest weapons.
Nigeria Won't Salvage African Hopes
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite numerous high-profile Asian and African players putting together dominant seasons at the club level in 2013-14, once again it's the South American and European teams dominating the World Cup so far.
Of all the African teams, the Super Eagles perhaps looked least convincing coming into the tournament, and their opening match against Iran was by far the ugliest fans have had to sit through so far.
Nigeria's attacking movement was embarrassing. Emmanuel Emenike was completely isolated, but when he did find the ball at his feet, he failed to contribute anything of meaning.
The biggest disappointment was by far Victor Moses, who had all kinds of space on the left flank and overran chance after chance. Crossing the ball proved too difficult for the Nigerians, and a 0-0 result seemed inevitable after just 15 minutes of play.
Bosnia may have lost their very first World Cup match against Argentina, but they lost with their heads held high. They played vibrant, attractive football and showed no fear going up against one of the heavyweights of world football.
They'll be favourites against a Nigerian team that has struggled for chemistry for a long time now, and unless the Super Eagles magically find a way to turn things around, Nigeria will only add to the misery African fans are already experiencing.