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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Time Almost Up for Argentina, US Bondholders in Debt Talks

South American nation has until end of Wednesday to either pay in full 'holdout' hedge funds, cut a deal or win a stay on court order that triggeered deadline
More

Football Star's Stepfather Kidnapped, Released

Lawyer for family of Argentina's Carlos Tevez said player's stepfather appeared to be unharmed
More

Video Young Migrants From Central America Risk Life and Limb to Get to US

For tens of thousands of young people trip north is fraught with hardship and danger
More

Mother of Slain Mexican Teen Sues US Border Patrol

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, was in Nogales, Mexico on October 10, 2012, when US agent shot him through border fence from Arizona
More

Planning Post-2015 Development

UNDP official calls for investing in people
More

Magnitude 6.3 Quake hits Mexico, No Major Damages, Injuries

Earthquake hit southwest of Juan Rodriguez, in eastern Mexican state of Veracruz at a depth of 95 km (60 miles), the US Geological Survey says
More