In world football, you can't win with just one player. It's a team sport, after all. Of course, if you only watched Wednesday's games—namely the Argentina vs. Nigeria match—you might be thinking otherwise.
With places in the knockout phase up for grabs and seeding to be decided, Wednesday's action at the 2014 World Cup was once again intense. Let's take a look back at the day's action, the goalscorers and review the race for the Golden Boot.
|Group||Team 1||Result||Team 2|
|F||Iran||1-3||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
Golden Boot Watch
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||3|
|Clint Dempsey||United States||2|
|Wilfried Bony||Ivory Coast||2|
|Edin Dzeko||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Miralem Pjanic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Avdija Vrsajevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa Rica||1|
|Lee Keun-Ho||South Korea||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
|Vedad Ibisevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|John Anthony Brooks||United States||1|
|Son Heung Min||South Korea||1|
|Koo Jacheol||South Korea||1|
|Jermaine Jones||United States||1|
Wednesday scorers are highlighted
The Argentine superstar was up to his old tricks on Wednesday, notching a brace in Argentina's 3-2 win over Nigeria. It was another case of Messidependencia, as explained by Sid Lowe of The Guardian before the match:
Messidependencia has made it to the World Cup along with the 150,000 Argentinians who have started arriving in the city of Porto Alegre for Wednesday’s match with Nigeria. It is a word that periodically appeared in Catalonia and now it is back again here in Brazil, with Argentina’s manager, Alejandro Sabella, admitting that, yes, his side do have Messidependence.
Here are Sabella's comments, via Lowe's report: "Whenever there is a player like Messi, there’s a dependence. We are trying to improve but dependence always exists. We have to try to take the pressure off him between all of us because we are a team. But for a great player there is always pressure at a World Cup."
Folks, just sit back for a moment and embrace the Messidependencia. Here's his first goal, minutes into the match, via ESPN FC:
Ahmed Musa would pull Nigeria even about a minute later, but Messi wasn't done. Just before the end of the half, he struck again, this time on a scintillating free-kick:
What a ridiculous free kick from Messi! He makes it look so easy. Pulling off his own Maradona act in Brazil. WATCH » http://t.co/PY8dgGG8Ep— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 25, 2014
But that Musa fellow, he wasn't going to allow Nigeria to go down without a fight. Two minutes into the second half, he had his own brace, and Nigeria were once again within striking distance of winning the group.
But Argentina were just too good. Marcos Rojo would put the winner in the net in the 50th minute on a set piece, and Argentina made it three wins in three games to top the group.
Just in case you weren't aware of how excellent that Messi guy has been in this World Cup, Gary Lineker can fill you in:
Messi has played 3 games. He's scored 4 goals, 3 of them from outside the box, and been voted Man of the Match in all 3 games.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 25, 2014
So, could Iran pull out a win against Bosnia and Herzegovina and top Nigeria on goal differential to advance out of the group?
Well, no, they couldn't. Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsajevic all scored for the European side, leading Bosnia and Herzegovina to a 3-1 win. But it wasn't all bleak for Iran, as they managed to get their first goal of the tournament, via Reza Ghoochannejhad.
With that tally, this year's World Cup reached an interesting milestone, as Paul Carr of ESPN noted:
Iran's goal means all 32 teams have scored at the #WorldCup for the first time since 1998.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 25, 2014
While France and Ecuador played to a pretty dull scoreless draw in the later games, Xherdan Shaqiri put on an absolute show in Switzerland's 3-0 win over hapless Honduras, notching a hat trick.
His first strike was his best one (and one of the best of this tournament, quite frankly). ESPN FC passes it along:
To be fair, his third goal was pretty as well, per ESPN:
Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland completes his hat-trick with this pretty goal -> http://t.co/QMI3MiXi4t— ESPN (@espn) June 25, 2014
It was quite the historical hat trick, as both Carr...
Shaqiri has the 50th hat trick in #WorldCup history. 1st time there have been 2 hat tricks at a WC since 2002.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 25, 2014
... And ESPN FC pointed out.
With Wednesday's action, the Golden Boot race also took an interesting turn, with Shaqiri's hat trick shaking things up while Neymar and Messi are now tied atop the scoring lead with four goals apiece. Not only that, but with both teams winning their groups, the bitter rivals can't meet until this year's title game.
Wouldn't that be something if Brazil and Argentina met, continental and world bragging rights on the line while Messi and Neymar battled for the Golden Boot?
There will be other contenders for the throne, of course, but at the moment, Neymar and Messi are the front-runners. It's a tribute to just how special both are that, with each facing enormous pressure in their home countries, they've delivered thus far.
Don't expect either to let up anytime soon.