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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Diplomat Found Dead in El Salvador

    Body of Panama's honorary consul is found in vehicle in San Salvador, with a gunshot wound to the head

    In Colombia, Abortion Is Legal but Denied to Many Women, Advocates Say

    Colombia, a nation of 48 million people, allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, if the fetus is at risk and if the health, both physical and mental, of the mother is at risk

    Colombia Says 2 More Journalists Missing in Rough Area

    Journalists missing in region where security forces are already carrying out massive search for prominent Spanish journalist, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday

    Cuba to Legalize Small, Medium-sized Private Businesses

    Move could significantly expand space allowed for private enterprise in one of world's last communist countries

    Coca Cola to Halt Some Production in Venezuela

    Sugar shortages and a deep recession have been forcing production shutdowns across the country

    Recording Allegedly Shows Minister Plotting Against Brazil's Rousseff

    Planning Minister Romero Jucá, who will step down temporarily, denies allegation, says words in published transcript of tape were taken out of context