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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Offers Abound for Americans Mulling #movingtocanada Over Trump

    Google, Spotify, Hotels.com among companies offering people considering heading to their northern neighbor if Donald Trump is elected president

    Fishermen Protest as Deadly Red Tide Blooms in Southern Chile

    The red tide - an algal bloom - is a common, naturally recurring phenomenon in southern Chile, though the extent of the current outbreak is unprecedented

    Reports: Brazil's Rousseff Faces Additional Investigation

    The investigation is reported to be centered on wiretapped phone calls between Rousseff and her predecessor

    Zika Outbreaks Expected in Large Portion of Americas

    Doctors involved in public health say getting across the message that a mild disease could be devastating to unborn babies is challenging

    Kerry: Countries with No Free Press Have Nothing to Brag About

    ‘No government ... can fairly claim respect if its citizens are not allowed to say what they believe,’ US Secretary of State said in recognition of World Press Freedom Day

    Olympic Flame in Brazil for a 90-Day Relay

    Flame has arrived in Brazil’s capital for 90-day relay around the country before reaching the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for opening of Games on August 5