Wednesday opened with Group F finishing its pool play. Argentina was facing Nigeria, while Bosnia was taking on Iran. Expecting a blowout in the Argentinian game, I opted to see if Iran was able to advance for the first time.
The game started with Iran being content to be tight in the back and look for counterattacks, which worked for both teams, as Bosnia is much better in the build-up. But Iran was giving an awful lot of space, not looking to pressure until the Bosnians were fifteen to twenty yards into their side of the field. So much of the game was taking place in a very small area, where Bosnia would bring it down, give it up in the midfield, and then squash the Iranian counterattack.
And that's how much of the game went, although each team got occasional glimpses of the net. The first good look at the net from Bosnia actually looked pretty innocuous, as Djeko had the ball at the top of the box, and elected to shoot from there. It wasn't a terribly hard shot, but it was placed with pin-point accuracy, on the ground, but an inch or two off the post, and the goalie just couldn't reach that far (it was only a few inches out of his reach).
Earlier, the announcers mentioned Argentina scoring, and I flipped over to see Messi's nice goal on replay. Well, the Nigerians responded by also scoring before the replay even finished, so I saw that goal as well.
The Iranians didn't respond quite as quickly as the African team did, but they weren't far off, either. However, their shot rang off the crossbar, and nearly straight down. So it bounced up quite a bit, and the Iranian following up waited to kick it, rather than heading it, which gave the goalie time to get in the way.
They were opening up a bit, both offensively and defensively, and that seemed to be paying off. They got close again in the thirty-first, with a nice play to chip it over the defense to one of three waiting forwards. But the forwards were caught by the offside trap for no damage.
The Bosnians took advantage of that space with a run of their own in the 41st. A pass ahead from the long run went to Vrsevic, but his pass across to Djeko, in the middle of the box (his home away from home, it seems) was a bit off-line and went out of bounds.
Dejagah (who had the bulk of the Iranian chances in the tournament, it seems) almost had a chance in the fifty-fifth, but was a hair off-sides. There was no excuse for it, though, as he was all the way at one end, and could watch all the defenders.
Four minutes later, Pjanic thanked the Iranian defense for a terrible turnover by depositing the ball into the net. Six minutes later, the Bosnians almost scored several times, but their players kept getting in each other's way. Funny sequence to watch, though.
Play went back and forth for a quarter of an hour after that, until Iran got another corner kick. The kick went to the back side, and was cleared out and further to that side. It was immediately crossed back to the center, and cleared. Then yet another played chipped it back into the center, where the only Iranian to stay onsides controlled it and passed it backwards across the net to Ghoochannejhad for an easy tap-in.
And in less time than it took for me to write out that sequence to a friend, the Bosnians came back and Vrsajevic put it in the net.
From there, the rest of the game was a formality.
In the other game, Messi had scored a second, as had Musa, before Rojo had provided the winning tally. So the Argentinian game ended up being the closer of the two, though the Argentinians showed no fear of losing, subbing Messi out in the 63rd minute.
The results ended up putting both Argentina and Nigeria through, with Argentina winning the group. No big surprises there, although I certainly wouldn't have been disappointed had Iran managed to win by two and advance. But that was a long shot, to put it mildly.