Messi steps up when Argentina needs him most

June 21, 2014, 6:26 PM

I write this ahead of the match between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria, which promises lots of goals. It has plenty to live up to on what has been a fascinating Saturday at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


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Here are some thoughts on Day 10 of the World Cup:

• It seems I drew the ire of some Iranian fans on Twitter when I suggested any team that parked the bus doesn’t deserve our sympathy. I stand by that; it’s a footballing ethos of mine. I want to see teams going for it and in Brazil we have been gifted to just that no matter what the apparent mismatch. However, and this was lost on some of the aggressors on Twitter, I get it; I fully understand why Iran did what they did and I have enormous respect for the effort put forth. That doesn’t mean I need to like it though.

• One understated prize of the World Cup is getting to see performances by players like Ashkan Dejagah. Talk about a full energy game, not to mention an almost match-winning display. Dejagah flew under the radar this season at Fulham due to the team’s struggles, but fans of the Cottagers were not surprised, as he was brilliant. The player of the season at Fulham in a relegation year, it seems to me that Dejagah is exactly the type of player a team needs to win promotion. For Fulham’s sake, let’s hope his form in Brazil doesn’t precipitate a transfer back to the top flight.

• It’s amazing how one moment of brilliance can completely change the narrative of a match. Rather than lamenting Lionel Messi’s lack of influence against Iran, the papers will be celebrating his genius. That’s the beauty of true world-class talent. Much like Luis Suarez against England, Messi was quiet for much of Saturday’s match but has that ability to turn a match with one glorious touch. In most games Suarez and Messi are hugely influential throughout, but if not, don’t worry, it can all turn out just fine. Messi may not be in top form at the moment, but he has two enormous goals and a team at 2-0.

• Sergio Aguero’s form might be reason for concern. You have to wonder if Alejandro Sabella will sit him for the final group match. If it’s form that’s the problem, he should play, but if he sits I’d suggest it’s a health problem and a massive worry for Argentina.

• Is Germany’s defence a worry? Ghana asked more questions than there were answers in that marvelous Saturday tussle. Might we see Philip Lahm return to right back against the United States? Does Per Mertesacker sit? Does Jerome Boateng — if healthy — return to the heart of defence? Lot’s of questions for the Germans heading into their final group game.

• Imagine this Ghana side with a little silk in the midfield? That’s all the Black Stars are lacking, aside from an ability to deal with set pieces. Once again though, Ghana brings so much to this World Cup. "Never say die" should be written on their crest after that amazing display. It’s sad they couldn’t convert those chances against the U.S.A., because a do-or-die tilt with Portugal seems ominous … or exactly what this team thrives on.

• I was sad to see Michael Essien didn’t take to the pitch, as a toe injury appears to have ended his World Cup career. In his pomp there were few players I enjoyed watching more, but injuries devastated the latter part of his career.

• When Miroslav Klose passed Gerd Muller as Germany’s all-time leading scorer, some people frowned. I’m sure many people frowned when he equaled Ronaldo’s World Cup record of 15 goals. That’s hugely unfair of course; Klose has earned every one of his 70 international goals. In an era where traditional strikers are dismissed as one-dimensional old-fashioned hacks, the German has gone about his job scoring goals. Klose might be part of a dying breed, or maybe he’ll inspire a new generation. Respect Miro!

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