World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 14
We are now reaching the end of the second week at the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, with another four sides knowing their fate for the last 16—and four more going home early.
Argentina sealed the top spot in their group with a 3-2 win over Nigeria, who claimed second place by a point after Bosnia-Herzegovina dispatched Iran 3-1 in the other game.
Later on in the evening, France ensured that they went through on top of Group E with a 0-0 draw against Ecuador—who exited the competition after Switzerland swept aside Honduras by a 3-0 scoreline, claiming second place in the process.
Here are all the day's biggest winners and losers.
Losers: Kun Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain
Argentina's three-pronged attack is largely in place to get the best out of Lionel Messi, giving him support to pass to and create space for him.
Ahead of Messi has been Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain—but neither have managed to impress considerably just yet.
Aguero went off injured against Nigeria, and Higuain laboured around for the entire match, looking off the pace and being entirely unproductive. It's just as well for the pair that their attacking team-mate has been on top of his game.
Winners: Nigeria's Rapid Response Unit
Nigeria probably felt they had already done the hard work after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in their all-important second game of the tournament, leaving the Argentina fixture as something between an exhibition and a chance to impress.
They fell behind early on but bounced back to immediately score.
Either side of half-time saw the same pattern occur; Argentina took the lead right before the whistle, before Nigeria once more equalised within minutes thanks to Ahmed Musa's scoring prowess both times.
They couldn't quite muster the same impressive response a third time, and so they tasted defeat. However, this was their best performance so far in terms of pace in attack, movement off the ball and, importantly, creating and taking chances.
Loser: Nigeria's Central Midfield
Obviously it wasn't all smiles for Nigeria, despite going through. They showed once more a tendency to cede possession far too easily through the middle and they wasted too many opportunities to take advantage of transitions.
John Obi Mikel is more fluid and offensive-minded at times for Nigeria than at the domestic level, but he was guilty of losing the ball frequently, while partner Ogenyi Onazi had perhaps his poorest game so far.
Whether that problem area is going to be masked against France in the knockouts, who tend to be fast-paced down the flanks after turnovers, remains to be seen.
Winner: Every Team Scoring
When Iran scored in the second half against Bosnia-Herzegovina, it meant that all 32 nations taking part in the 2014 World Cup had managed to find the net during the tournament.
Yep, even Greece did on Tuesday.
Reza Ghoochannejhad was the man who netted for Iran, making it the first time since 1998 that every competing nation scored in the finals.
Loser: Bosnia's Missed Opportunity
Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1 in their final game, finishing the group with three points and in third place.
There is no shame at all in recording that tally and position at their first finals appearance ever. However, they will undoubtedly be looking at Nigeria having gone through in second as their missed opportunity to progress.
Whether the change in tactics, a mental block or the instruction of the coach, the Bosnian national team was significantly less offensive-minded at the finals than they were in qualifying. It was this fact which ultimately cost them the chance to progress, after they struggled for momentum and chances in the defeat to Nigeria.
Winners: Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko
Bosnia-Herzegovina clocked off their campaign with a win, and Edin Dzeko made sure he found the back of the net in the tournament too.
It was a great reward for the striker after firing his nation to the finals for the first time ever, and he was unlucky not to net a late winner in the team's second game against Nigeria.
Miralem Pjanic, meanwhile, put in another very good performance to leave a big impression at the World Cup, despite his side's exit.
Loser: Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia was sent off in his side's pre-World Cup warm-up match against England, but being a friendly, it didn't particularly cost Ecuador anything.
In their final group game against France, needing to match Switzerland's result to go through in second place, he got himself red carded once again, leaving his team-mates with a big uphill struggle.
Ecuador drew 0-0, and they must have a lingering feeling of what might have been, had they been able to utilise the full complement of players going into the final stages of the game.
Winner: France's Squad Depth
Didier Deschamps' French side have looked impressive so far. They also looked incredibly composed, even after a number of changes for their final game.
The likes of Lucas Digne, Morgan Schneiderlin and Laurent Koscielny all performed well, though without the same relentless approach for goals that the side had had in the opening two games.
It shows France have a huge amount of depth at Deschamps' disposal, ready for the assault on the last 16.
Loser: Honduras' Lame Attempts to Win Penalties
Honduras stood little chance of going through. After Switzerland had taken the lead early in the match, their chances decreased even further.
However, they still attacked with pace and some menace at times. But, invariably—especially as the game went on—those attacks came to an end with a dramatic, pointless and entirely predictable tumble inside the penalty area.
Jerry Palacios was one of the worst offenders, but he wasn't the only one. Perhaps at some point, one of them should have actually tried to take the opportunity to shoot.
Winner: Switzerland Rediscovering Defensive Resolve
Switzerland's passage to the World Cup finals was marked by their excellent defensive record: they conceded only six goals in 10 qualifiers, with four of those coming in a single 4-4 draw against Iceland. That game aside, they were almost impenetrable at the back.
That made it all the more shocking that, after an opening-match win, they collapsed, crumbling entirely against France and conceding five goals in a heavy defeat.
Against Honduras, even with injuries to contend with, they were back to their solid best, keeping a clean sheet and moving into the knock-out stages in the process, where they will face Lionel Messi and Argentina.