Saturday's slate of 2014 World Cup fixtures will give punters another chance to work their magic, with a total of three matches scheduled on Matchday 10.
Argentina and Germany are heavy favourites going into their second matches of the group stages, but both will be facing physical defences with their World Cup bids at stake.
The tie between Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina will most likely decide which team gets to join Argentina as qualifiers from Group E, only adding further drama to what should already be another day of glorious football.
|2014 World Cup Day 10 Game Lines|
Argentina Will Finally Look Like World Cup Contenders Against Iran
The 2014 World Cup has already seen its fair share of upsets, but Saturday's fixture between Argentina and Iran won't turn into another Cinderella story.
The Albiceleste didn't look particularly impressive during their friendlies in preparation of the tournament, and their opener against Bosnia was sloppy at best. As one of the heavy favourites to lift the World Cup in a few weeks' time, the Argentines simply have to perform better.
The attacking unit has struggled with space, and the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero have been too wasteful with their opportunities. But those players are world-class talents, and when the chips are on the line, they tend to find the kind of form that makes them so deadly.
In contrast, the defence isn't world-class, and the defensive struggles so far are a worrying sign. Teams like Bosnia and Iran don't necessarily have the talent to take advantage of those struggles, but the sides that Argentina will face in the knockout stages do.
Messi criticised Argentina's defensive formation after their match against Bosnia, and per Goal's Ben Hayward, manager Alejandro Sabella told reporters he didn't mind the comments of his star forward:
I wasn't annoyed at all by Leo's quotes. He was asked how he likes playing and he replied. He was very respectful.
Messi has always said this, it's nothing new. He has always said he prefers to play 4-3-3 with [Angel] Di Maria pushing forward.
We live in a climate of freedom and, in any case, I was the one who designated Messi for the press conference on Monday. I have complete trust in my players and they are free to express their opinions.
If I told them what to say, I would be insecure.
Argentina appear to be ditching the 5-3-2 formation in favour of a classic 4-3-3, giving their attacking players more freedom to find spaces. Iran's defensive unit is built around limiting those spaces, but the Iranians lack the sort of individual brilliance to contain world-class talent.
This match will give Argentina the perfect chance to finally look like the team we know they can be, and expect them to do just that.
Germany Will Be Tournament Favourites After Their Match with Ghana
Most pundits still seem to give the edge to hosts Brazil when asked who will win the 2014 World Cup, but that will change once Die Mannschaft have had their way with Ghana.
The Black Stars aren't a bad team—far from it. They field a number of quality players and have the kind of raw athleticism to take advantage of Germany's high press. Which is exactly why Germany's performance against the Ghanaians will be so impressive.
Against the United States, Ghana failed to control the midfield battle, and with a lack of support coming from that part of the pitch, their biggest strengths out on the wing were largely neutralized.
It took the introduction of Kevin-Prince Boateng to finally shift the balance, and by that time, too much time had passed for the Black Stars to find their rhythm.
The United States have a number of talented central midfielders like Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, but they're nothing compared to whom the Ghanaians will be facing on Saturday.
In a free role, Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller completely ridiculed Portugal's central axis, and anyone who made it past them was immediately tracked down by Sami Khedira, who showed no signs of struggling with his form.
The German team will use a very similar tactical plan against Ghana, and the results will be largely the same. For all of their talent, the Black Stars won't be able to cope with Germany's midfield dominance, and it will lead to another easy German victory.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Won't Need Experience To Get Past Nigeria
During the run-up to this tournament, all we ever heard about was how the Super Eagles had the experience to overcome the likes of Iran and Bosnia and how Bosnia would struggle with the high pace of the World Cup.
If both teams' opening fixtures are anything to go by, it appears neither team was listening. Nigeria lacked any sort of creativity or passion in their 0-0 draw against Iran, while Bosnia came very close to defeating the much-favoured Argentines.
Everyone knows Bosnia have an excellent striker in Edin Dzeko, but it was their defensive work against Messi and his partners that truly stood out from that match. Not a single player seemed overwhelmed by the circumstances, and the Bosnian side played fearless, attractive football for the full 90 minutes.
On the other hand, the Nigerians' movement against Iran was pitiful. Going up against a team bent on defending their own box, the Super Eagles refused to try and open up the defence, electing to lob long ball after long ball right into the teeth of the defence.
The tactic failed, and because the wingers couldn't produce a cross to save their lives, the result was almost inevitable—a goalless draw, with both Nigeria and Iran in need of at least four points out of their remaining two matches to feel comfortable about qualification.
A good team like Bosnia will let the ball do the work for them. Nigeria have consistently failed to play solid, basic football, and for all their experience, individual quality won't be enough to beat a Bosnian team that will be carrying the momentum of their excellent performance against Argentina into this match.
Game lines according to Odds Shark.
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