The next phase of the 2014 World Cup is finally becoming clear with only three spots remaining in the round of 16 after Wednesday's matches.
With Group E and F closing out their group-stage play, Argentina and France each finished in first place while Nigeria and Switzerland were able to advance.
This leaves just four matches remaining in the opening stage in Brazil—although Belgium have already secured their spot in the next round. Algeria, Russia and South Korea will all compete for the final spot in Group H while all four squads remain alive in Group G with one match left for each.
Here is a complete look at the standings with odds to win the World Cup, followed by a recap of the play from Day 14.
Day 14 Scores
Argentina 3, Nigeria 2
While Argentina were able to finish their group with a perfect record, this final win showed off the positives and negatives with the current squad.
Superstar Lionel Messi started the match off with a goal in the third minute that came on a rebound that he fired into the top of the net. However, Nigeria came right back in the fourth minute to equalise the match on a great passing display.
This score stood until the very end of the first half when Messi was able to get his second score on an impressive free kick:
Nigeria evened the match again shortly into the second half, but Argentina crawled back ahead for good when Marcos Rojo scored on a corner kick.
Obviously, Argentina have one of the best attacks in the world behind arguably the top scorer in the sport, but the poor defense has been a problem. Even Messi acknowledged this after the match:
Messi: "We played a good game, solved some problems, but we can still improve. We conceded two goals and should work hard to avoid that."— barcastuff (@barcastuff) June 25, 2014
Still, they move on to the next round where they will hope to continue their run to a title.
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3, Iran 1
Iran needed a win and some help to get into the next round of the World Cup, but Bosnia-Herzegovina ensured that this would not happen with a 3-1 victory.
Edin Dzeko started off the scoring for Bosnia with his first goal of the tournament in the 23rd minute. The squad—which entered the day with no chance of advancing after losing the first two matches—continued to beat the tough Iranian defense with another score in the 59th minute.
Although Iran did finally get onto the scoresheet on a goal by Reza Ghoochannejhad in the 82nd minute, it only took one minute for Bosnia to get that score back and maintain the two-goal win.
This represents the first victory for the relatively young country at the World Cup, but this is still a disappointing result for a squad that many thought could reach the next round. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz agreed with this notion, via The Sydney Morning Herald:
Congratulations to Bosnia. With all due respect to Nigeria and Argentina, the best team in the group (Bosnia) didn't qualify.
They have great players and they played at another level to us. My players went to their physical and mental limits today, but it wasn't possible to get the result.
Neither side in this match will qualify for the next round, but both should be proud of strong performances in Brazil and will hope to build off this effort in the future.
Switzerland 3, Honduras 0
After being shutout of the first two matches, this contest was the Xherdan Shaqiri show as the youngster led the way with a hat trick.
The first goal of the day was easily his best and one of the most impressive goals you will see all tournament, a fired shot from outside the box into the top left corner of the net. Matteo Bonetti of beIN Sport provides an impressive comparison for the goal:
As the match continued, teammate Josip Drmic stepped up with some key passes to help provide Shaqiri with his second and third goals of the day. This led to some interesting milestones, via Bleacher Report UK:
Although Honduras had a few quality chances in the second half, nothing was able to get past Switzerland keeper Diego Benaglio as they were able to complete the shutout.
With the win, the Swiss were able to move past Ecuador in the standings and into second place in the group. As a result, they will continue into the round of 16 to face the tough but not unbeatable Argentina.
France 0, Ecuador 0
France only needed a point to secure their spot on top of Group E, and that is exactly how they played against Ecuador.
The team that scored eight goals in the first two matches of the tournament was more than satisfied to maintain possession (69 percent) and work to get good shots rather than force anything. This led to a quiet match with 21 shots on goal for France but no goals.
Of course, the lack of scoring remains disappointing for such a good team. Jonathan Johnson of ESPN FC notes that this could serve as a good wake-up call moving forward:
Bit of a reality check for France tonight. Should ensure that there is no over-optimism ahead of Nigeria game. No bad thing. #FRA— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) June 25, 2014
On the other hand, this match was a major disappointment for Ecuador, which had a serious chance of advancing but could not get the win they desperately needed. This will make them look back at the first match of the tournament when they gave up a game-winning goal to Switzerland in the 93rd minute.
Interestingly, Ecuador also become the only one of six South American clubs to be eliminated in the group stage. This should only motivate the talented squad to improve their performance next time out.
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