Day 14 of the 2014 World Cup gives us the deciding matches in Groups E & F, as Nigeria play the already qualified Argentina while Bosnia have nothing to play for against a still alive Iran. In the later matches, it’s all wide open as France play against Ecuador while Honduras might still make it in their match against Switzerland.
Nigeria got a huge boost from a good match with some help from the referee against Bosnia, but it doesn’t matter. The problem for Nigeria is that they’re not really built to play for a draw, which is a result that will be enough for them to qualify for the next stage in the competition for a first time since 1998. The other problem is facing Argentina, who only need one point to finish first in the group.
We might see some changes in the Argentinian team but in general it should be the same one we saw start the match against Iran – much closer to a 4-3-3 than the lineup that struggled against Bosnia in the opening match. With a team that plays a lot more openly like Nigeria, Argentina believe that they won’t look so sluggish and stuck as they did against Iran with their defensive tactics.
Iran have a shot at the improbable, but they’ll need to beat Bosnia who frankly are a better team. A win for Iran won’t be enough, as they’ll also need Nigeria to lose and from there it’ll come down to goal difference or the number of goals. Bosnia looked beaten down and broken, physically and mentally, in the loss to Nigeria. I’m not sure they’ll have what it takes to pick themselves up after the massive disappointment. However, garbage time matches for teams sometimes bring out the best of them, especially against an opponent like Iran who are very limited in what they can do on offense.
In Group F, Honduras, despite two losses, are still alive. Facing Switzerland isn’t going to be easy for them, and even a win won’t be enough unless Ecuador lose as well and by enough goals. The -4 goal difference is really hurting the Honduran side in this one, and in general, despite their goal against Ecuador, it’s hard to see them generating enough offense against the Swiss. On the flip side of that subject, the Switzerland defense looked like an absolute joke against France.
France are still not in the round of 16 but need a draw to get there. The only way they don’t make it out of the group stage is if they lose and Swizterland win as well, although goal difference should “save” France in that case as well. They shouldn’t get complacent against an Ecuador side that has shown their efficiency in set pieces and counter attacking, but their defense and goalkeeping hasn’t been very impressive so far, which means that a French team in the same form of their win over Switzerland will be very difficult for them to completely slow down.