Day 14 of the World Cup featured a hat trick, the sustained brilliance of one of the world's greatest players and a national side getting its first ever World Cup victory.
The results saw Nigeria and Switzerland join group winners Argentina and France in the round of 16. The standings are important to the forward-looking fans of the global game, but there is plenty of action to recap after another wonderful advertisement for the most popular sport in the world.
Here are the day's scores, updated standings and match recaps as we near the conclusion of the group stages.
|F||Argentina vs. Nigeria||ARG 3-2 NGR|
|F||Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran||BSH 3-1 IRA|
|E||France vs. Ecuador||FRA 0-0 ECU|
|E||Switzerland vs. Honduras||SUI 3-0 HON|
Day 14 Results
Argentina 3-2 Nigeria
Nigeria was no match for the brilliant play of Lionel Messi in its 3-2 loss to Argentina, but the Super Eagles still moved on to the round of 16 thanks to Bosnia-Herzegovina's defeat of Iran.
This game punished anyone for oversleeping or failing to take their lunch break on time.
The game got off to a furious start as Messi continued his stellar World Cup run by blasting a rebound shot into the roof of the net for a quick 1-0 lead. Nigeria's Ahmed Musa answered right back in the very next minute to tie the game at 1-1 before five minutes had elapsed from the clock.
The dream beginning spoiled Grantland's Brian Phillips:
Three minutes now without a goal in Porto Allegre. God, soccer is tedious.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 25, 2014
He couldn't remain too upset, as the entire contest was a highly entertaining back-and-forth affair. Argentina was through to the next round before the game began but were in no mood to let Nigeria overtake them for the top spot.
Messi gave Argentina a 2-1 lead just before the break and tied Neymar atop the Golden Boot leaderboard with this exquisite free kick, via ESPNFC:
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
There is no match for Messi in the world of soccer, but Musa can say he kept pace with the legend for a day thanks to his sumptuous equalizer in the 47th minute.
His goal turned out to be a historic one for Nigeria, as Opta Jose pointed out:
Nigeria kept going full throttle even with the tie, as they couldn't bank on Bosnia-Herzegovina getting a favorable result against Iran. Argentina's talent eventually pulled through, as Marcos Rojo scored off a corner kick to give his team a 3-2 lead it would never relinquish.
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 Iran
Bosnia-Herzegovina put in it finest display of the World Cup with a 3-1 victory over an Iran side desperate to make good on its slim chances of knockout-round glory. It was the first World Cup victory in Bosnia-Herzegovina's history.
Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic—two of Bosnia-Herzegovina's best players—scored in the first half of play to quickly stamp out Iran's flickering hopes.
This was impressive considering Iran had built a reputation for staunch defending; it held Nigeria to a scoreless draw, and Argentina needed 90 minutes and some Messi magic to get just one measly goal past goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi.
Iran struggled just as they had all tournament to put together any quality attacks, with play often breaking down in the midfield and well before the final third.
Reza Ghoochannejhad brought one back for Iran in the 82nd minute, but Bosnia-Herzegovina's Avdija Vrsajevic quickly squashed any hopes of a shocking Iran comeback with his 83rd minute shot to cap the game and create the final score line.
France 0-0 Ecuador
Ecuador fought valiantly but were unable to get the necessary goals to move on to the next round of play; La Tri tied France 0-0 while Switzerland got the victory it needed to surpass the South American squad in the standings.
France—almost completely assured of going through to the next round before the game began—had been on a goal-scoring tear to start the tournament, putting up three goals against Honduras and five against a Switzerland side with a reputation for stonewalling opponents.
However, Les Bleus were unable to break down Ecuador despite having little difficulty moving the ball into the attacking third. Ecuador looked highly disorganized in the first half and struggled in attack. ESPN Stats & Info shows the disparity between the two teams after 45 minutes:
Ecuador's hopes of moving on to the next round took a big hit when captain Antonio Valencia drew a red card for a studs-up challenge on a sliding Lucas Digne in the 50th minute.
Valencia had been ineffectual during the game, and the red card seemed to embolden his teammates during the first few minutes of his absence. Enner Valencia and company were able to create a couple of strong chances on counterattacks, but they were unable to break through for the goal they needed.
Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez saved a number of blistering shots to keep his team in it until the very last minute of play.
The French players never seemed quite able to shake off the cobwebs and play to their potential in this match; the safety of advancing to the knockout round was perhaps too enticing. Ecuador fought until the very last second of play, but a draw was not enough to secure advancement into the next round of play.
Switzerland 3-0 Honduras
A Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick vaulted Switzerland past Ecuador and into the round of 16, as the 3-0 score line was plenty good enough to defeat a happy-to-be-here Honduran team.
Shaqiri tallied his first goal in the sixth minute and immediately put the world, and especially Ecuador, on notice. ESPNFC has the highlight of the spectacular strike:
Shaqiri's goal drew plaudits from sports journalist Lucas Swain:
Shaqiri take a bow. That's the 10th goal of a Bayern Munich player at the World Cup - the highest of any club.— Lucas Swain (@BundesligaLucas) June 25, 2014
Honduras suffered another ignominious defeat in this World Cup. They did very little to challenge Switzerland throughout the match, surely aggravating Ecuadorian fans looking for a helping hand on the day.
Shaqiri was all Switzerland needed for an attack in the match; the Bayern Munich star buried shots in the 31st and 71st minutes to cement his team's dominance over Honduras. As ESPN's Twitter account shows, Switzerland "cheesehead" fans were delighted by his play:
Shaqiri joined club teammate Thomas Muller as the only two players in the World Cup with a hat trick. However, this tournament has been goal-crazy from Day 1, and the knockout stages should provide plenty of opportunities for the world's best players to put up their own magical performances.