The group stage of the 2014 World Cup is drawing to a close, but not before some of the groups work themselves out and decide who will advance onto the next round.
That continued on Wednesday, as Group E and Group F played their final matches of this round. And as expected, France and Argentina won those respective groups.
Argentina was first up to the test against Nigeria, and who else but Lionel Messi to be the star in leading the Argentines to a 3-2 victory as shown by Bleacher Report UK:
It didn't take long for Argentina to go in front. In the match's opening minutes, Messi ripped a rebound into the top of the net as they took a 1-0 lead. But Nigeria answered right back with an equalizer.
Messi again put the Argentines in front in first-half stoppage time with his second perfect free-kick, this one actually getting past Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. Nigeria again equalized off Ahmed Musa's second goal, but Marcos Rojo put Argentina in front for good in the 50th minute.
Squawka Football noted Messi's magnificent stat line:
ESPN's Ian Darke said it was about time:
So much for Messi not being the same player for Argentina. Reckon he's been saving himself for this.— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) June 25, 2014
Nigeria-Argentina wasn't the only Group F fixture going on at the time, as Bosnia-Herzegovina took on Iran.
Iran could have advanced through with a win and help from Argentina, but it wasn't in the cards. Instead, Bosnia showed the form they had indicated having at times earlier in Brazil, and exploded with goals.
Edin Dzeko got them started in the 23rd minute, and that was all until Miralem Pjanic scored in the 59th minute. Iran would draw to 2-1 in the closing moments, but Bosnia quickly answered back with another to distance themselves.
Shortly after the match, it was announced that Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz was done with the club. Owen Gibson of The Guardian summed up what it could mean for England's manager:
Now Iran's Carlos Queiroz joins managers of Italy, Japan and Ivory Coast in quitting after group stage exit. At home, Roy coughs nervously.— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) June 25, 2014
Argentina's win means they went on to win the group, as most expected. Despite losing their final match, Nigeria will go through after Iran failed to pick up three points in their match to Bosnia.
In the final slate of matches, all France had to do was not lose by five-plus goals, and they were in position to advance. They surely would've liked to continue their magnificent form that they started the World Cup with but instead sputtered to a scoreless draw against Ecuador.
France controlled the match with 60 percent possession, in some part due to a 50th-minute red card on Antonio Valencia that allowed the French to press again and again. But despite 20 shots and 13 on goal, they couldn't get past Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez—who had a whopping nine saves.
The next match in Group E was much more friendly in the goal-scoring department. Switzerland found the net early and often and routed Honduras 3-0 in their final group-stage match.
ESPN SportsCenter summed up what it means moving forward:
That's it for Group E! France wins group after 0-0 tie, Switzerland advances thanks to 3-0 win. Ecuador and Honduras are eliminated.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 25, 2014
After all of the unbelievable results and shocking finishes at the World Cup, Wednesday saw a bit of a return to normalcy. France and Switzerland got through Group E as many expected, and Argentina won Group F with the talented Nigerians also advancing—much less shocking than Costa Rica or Greece going through, as we saw the previous two days.
Switzerland will get the tougher draw heading into the round of 16, facing Messi-led Argentina with the chance to pull one of the most stunning upsets of the tournament on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, France will move on to face Nigeria in the round of 16 in Monday's match.
When Wednesday's action drew to a close, only two groups stood unsettled. Belgium are the only team playing on Thursday that has their spot in the next round secure.
Let's take a look at the updated group tables and the rest of the group-stage fixtures.
|Thu., June 26||12 p.m.||United States vs. Germany||ESPN|
|12 p.m.||Portugal vs. Ghana||ESPN2|
|4 p.m.||South Korea vs. Belgium||ESPN|
|4 p.m.||Algeria vs. Russia||ESPN2|
|Sat., June 28||12 p.m.||Brazil vs. Chile||ABC|
|4 p.m.||Colombia vs. Uruguay||ABC|
|Sun., June 29||12 p.m.||Netherlands vs. Mexico||ESPN|
|4 p.m.||Costa Rica vs. Greece||ESPN|
|Mon., June 30||12 p.m.||France vs. Nigeria||ESPN|
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