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Jack: Messi's strike was the moment of Day 10 in Brazil

Kristian Jack
6/21/2014 9:48:08 PM
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Day 10 in 100 words or less

If this was 2010 and Germany and Ghana had just played out the 2-2 draw that took place on Saturday then people would be talking about it as one of the greatest games in World Cup history. Of course it wasn't, although it was fantastic, but place that game around a long bunch of duds and that would have been the perception. Instead, it came in the midst of what is turning out to be the finest World Cup group stage ever. Typically, for Brazil 2014, the game wasn't even the main story on day 10, instead the little master took over that honour.

Argentina 1-0 Iran

Sometimes there just has to be a winner. Someone proved right even when it just seemed they were so wrong.

You will have heard by now that Lionel Messi scored a dramatic injury time winner against Iran so you probably presume that the winner I am talking about is him. I am not.

Heading into this World Cup the biggest storyline of all was "can the best player in the world carry Argentina to glory and become one of the greats?" For many it was nonsense, an obsession with an individual in a team sport who cannot possibly do it all himself.

As the clock ticked past the ninety minute mark that crowd smiled. Resolute Iran had defended brilliantly. In a World Cup full of swashbuckling, quick, decisive finishing, it took a footballing minnow to give a masterclass in defending. Don't be fooled, they threatened to score also, but above anything else they made world class attacking stars look very ordinary.

This included Messi. It was the perfect example of a game that laughed in the face of those who demanded the Barcelona star must carry his team. A game that required complete cohesion, partnerships on the field, combining to open up an opponent. A game that, late in the first half, saw Messi pick up the ball, look up and see 11 opponents in front of him...

Iran did a great job with Messi, not only marking him tightly but being so disciplined with their shape and getting extra numbers that were ready if Messi cut in with his left.

Messi from deep areas likes to glide from right to left but still the Iranians blocked that path.

Last weekend Messi was able to score his goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina when that key area highlighted by the square (below) was open and not blocked with defenders...

A 1-2 pass with Fernando Gago and suddenly Messi is into that space, shoots to the right of the goalkeeper for the game winner.

And that was how he got his goal against Iran. With the game coming to a close, Iran got too deep, Messi got a one-on-one matchup with the defender and saw space to his left if he cut in...

With 11 men behind the ball, but with that crucial narrow space opening up, Messi unleashed a brilliant strike to win it...

Goals change perceptions as quickly as they change games. Suddenly Messi was doing what some had demanded. Carrying Argentina on his back to a victory. It was a wonderful World Cup moment, without question, but those demanding it, should be careful what they wish for. This is not Messi of 2010 and it is not even close. Yet.

By not scoring, and therefore not having 'a moment', in South Africa Messi's legacy was seen as tarnished for not performing at a World Cup. Now he looks tired and isn't quite at the same level, but scoring, everything seems to be fine again. It just goes to show you what a staggeringly misguided argument it was in the first place.

Germany 2-2 Ghana

There is no room for perfection in a World Cup like this. Germany, superior against Portugal, were clearly the most impressive team after the first round of games but it just wouldn't be Brazil 2014 if that was allowed to continue. Germany, much like Italy and Spain this week, spent some time in the heat of Brazil struggling to get back in a match. The big difference was they had a record breaker to bring off the bench. For the first time since 1994, the Germans trailed at the World Cup after leading and, stunned at 2-1, on came Miroslav Klose. Two minutes later he had them level, fittingly poaching at the backpost, equaling the Brazilian great Ronaldo with 15 World Cup goals.

It was the fourth goal in a mad 20 minutes. Ghana had joined an ever-growing 'comeback club' at this World Cup responding to a Mario Gotze opener with two excellent goals that highlighted some German weakness. Germany's weakness is their defence and they were easily outjumped by Andre Ayew to make it 1-1. The heat of Fortaleza certainly played a part but the tempo of their passing wasn't quick enough either and that showed when they turned the ball over on the second goal. Philipp Lahm has now had two opportunities to move back to right back in two games but so far Joachim Low has resisted. To get Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos together, bringing more pace and power to their midfield, Lahm may need to move back to defence.

Nigeria 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina

The African momentum continued into the evening game, which was another wide open, stretched affair. The game swung in the first half when Edin Dzeko was wrongly ruled offside after putting his team ahead. Soon after, Nigeria, a constant threat down the right side, opened the scoring when Emmanuel Emenike crossed for Peter Odemwingie to smash home. The Europeans were poor in the second half and didn't threaten enough until Vincent Enyeama produced a wonderful save with his legs in the dying moments. Seen as some as a dark horse heading in, the World Cup rookies are eliminated at the first fence. Another lesson that far too much emphasis can be placed on form from qualifying, which ended eight months ago.

Man of the Day

Nominees

Ashkan Dejagah – Iran had many stars on this day but the Fulham man was incredibly lively when they countered and could have had a penalty when tripped by Pablo Zabaleta.

Javad Nekounam – If Dejagah was the star going forward, his midfielder teammate was marvelous maintaining the shape and discipline of their back lines.

Lionel Messi – It could have been a two yard tap-in and it still would have been a massive moment, given the timing of the goal, but in the end it was an absolutely stunning goal.

Miroslav Klose – Any player who equals any stat held by the great Ronaldo is special.

Emmanuel Emenike – It was a dominant display from the forward tearing apart Emir Spahic at the heart of the Bosnian defence.

The winner...

Lionel Messi – Who else?

What comes next?

Belgium vs. Russia (12pm/9am), South Korea vs. Algeria (3pm/noon), USA vs. Portugal (6pm/3pm).

Burning question for Sunday

Can the USA stop Joao Moutinho from dictating a game from midfield?

Key stat of Day 10

Try this on your friends – what do Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Stoke City have in common? They are the three teams that have had players score past their club goalkeeper. Zinedine Zidane vs Iker Casillas (2006), Wesley Sneijder vs Julio Cesar (2010) and now Peter Odemwingie vs Asmir Begovic (2014).



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