News / Americas

World Cup: Where Messi Leads, Argentina Must Follow

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Iran during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 21, 2014.
Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Iran during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 21, 2014.
Reuters
— After underwhelming early performances, traditional Latin American top dogs Argentina and reigning African champions Nigeria have something to prove when they meet in their final World Cup Group F match on Wednesday.

Argentina was among the favorites going into the tournament but despite a much-vaunted front four, they have yet to come alive, with the exception of some moments of match-winning magic from Lionel Messi.

Nigeria, representing Africa's richest and most populous nation, has also labored to convince as a team.

Nonetheless, Argentina sits atop Group F with six points thanks to their less-than-emphatic wins over Bosnia and Iran.

The Sky Blues have already qualified for the Round of 16 but will still want finish first to ensure an easier opponent - in principle at least - in the next stage.

Nigeria has four points following a dull draw with Iran and a win over first-timers Bosnia. A draw would be enough to ensure qualification but a loss to Argentina could put them in trouble.

Iran, which surprised many with its tenacious, bold play against Argentina, could still seize second place its team beats Bosnia and racks up a better goal difference.

So a game that could see as much anxiety as adventure is on the cards.

Messi's sublime strike against Iran in stoppage time in Belo Horizonte only highlighted the danger of Argentina relying on the Barcelona man too much. It wasn't supposed to be like that.

Need to step up the pace

He and his fellow strikers Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria form what should have been one of the most formidable attack forces in the tournament, but so far it has been rather blunt.

The defense has also looked shaky, with central defender Ezekiel Garay repeatedly caught off guard against Iran.

“We have a few causes for concern,” head coach Alejandro Sabella admitted after the close-shave against Iran.

With other Latin American teams such as Chile and previously unheralded Costa Rica powering ahead and delighting fans along the way, Argentina will need to step up the pace if they are to quickly regain what they see as their rightful place at the front.

“We know we are not playing as well as we are expected,” Messi said. “But as we go along in the tournament, we will be improving and we will reach our full potential.”

Argentina will be able to count on fervent support - tens of thousands of fans are expected to flood over the border into the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, a region which shares its gaucho culture but harbors an intense soccer rivalry.

Nigeria may take heart from the fact that they made a slow start in the African Nations Cup before going on to take the title last year.

The Super Eagles cannot afford to give anything away at the back but will need to hunt for goals if they are to be sure of qualifying for the Round of 16 for the first time since 1998.

Playing in their fifth World Cup, Nigeria's performance against Bosnia was an improvement over the Iran game, when they looked bereft of ideas. But their defensive frailties were exposed on several occasions and that could prove fatal with a hungry wolf like Messi on the prowl.

Click here to check out our special World Cup site
  • Russia's Sergey Ignashevich fights for the ball with Belgium's Divock Origi during their match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2014.
  • Belgium's Divock Origi scores against Russia during their match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2014.
  • A spectator holds up a message for Russia before the start of the 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match against Belgium at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2014.
  • A fan of South Korea shouts before their match against Algeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, June 22, 2014.
  • South Korea's Son Heung-min scores past Algeria's Rais Mbolhi during their match at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, June 22, 2014.
  • Algeria's Yacine Brahimi (11) scores against South Korea during their match at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, June 22, 2014.
  • From left: Algeria's Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche, Rafik Halliche, Nabil Bentaleb, Yacine Brahimi, Essaid Belkalem and Sofiane Feghouli celebrate their win over South Korea at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, June 22, 2014.
  • A fan shows his colors before the match between Portugal and U.S. at the Amazonia arena in Manaus, June 22, 2014.
  • Clint Dempsey of the U.S. watches after knocking the ball into the net against Portugal at the Amazonia arena in Manaus, June 22, 2014. 
  • Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (7) watches teammate Nani (17) score a goal during their match between against the U.S. at the Amazonia arena in Manaus, June 22, 2014.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

US Ambassador Calls for LGBT Rights

John Berry spoke at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne
More

China's Xi Praises Close Ties with Cuba

Head of China's Communist Party hails common socialist bond between his country and Cuba as he kicks off a state visit in Havana
More

US Judge Orders Argentina, Creditors to Reach Deal

Lawyers for investors who declined to restructure bonds after country defaulted on about $100B in 2002 warned that time running out to reach a deal, avert fresh default
More

Trial Imminent for Detained Venezuelan Protest Leader Lopez

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, says outside pressure needed on Venezuelan president to move case forward
More

Sex Workers Seek HIV Prevention

The Lancet publishes new series on HIV
More

Texas Gov. Perry Orders State National Guard to Border

Governor says he took extraordinary measure to help secure the border, his critics say it is a political stunt
More