World Cup Daily: The Messi show

World Cup Daily: The Messi show
June 21, 2014, 9:30 am
Share This Post

Game of the Day: Germany vs. Ghana, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

While Messi and Argentina will get their deserved publicity, Germany-Ghana actually highlights the day. Between the Ayew brothers, Christian Atsu, Kwadoah Asamoah, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sully Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, Ghana has enough firepower to be a thorn in the side of the Germans. You don't have to look back any further than Monday when Ghana was seemingly on the attack for 84 of the first 86 minutes with the United States scoring in the first and 86th minutes. The problem for Ghana is their backline and shutting down Germany's potent attack. 

Germany didn't even go with their full-strength squad against Portugal and throttled Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugese, 4-0. Thomas Muller got off to another solid start as he looks to win the Golden Boot award solo this year after tying for the top goal-scorer in the tournament in 2010. Muller may not bag a hat trick again, but it is expected he could be deployed as a striker again against Ghana. This leaves Miroslav Klose on the bench despite him needing just one goal to tie Brazilian legend Ronaldo's record of 15 goals. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, the engine that runs the German attack, missed the first game and it is now officially time to monitor him and how much playing time he sees. 

Player of the Day: F Lionel Messi, Argentina

As Ray Hudson once said, "You never smile at a crocodile, and you never give Messi too much space." 

Well, Bosnia and Herzegovina did that in their first match of the World Cup, and Messi's first goal was a thing of beauty as he took on five Bosnian defenders. Iran isn't Bosnia. This game should get out of hand early, and Messi should be the one leading the charge. 

Best of the Rest: The aforementioned Bosnian's face Nigeria, who are coming off the disappointing draw against Iran. Nigeria still have hopes to advance, but will need a result against Bosnia to do so. The Nigerians have pace for days, but couldn't find that crucial pass in the final third to unlock the Iranian defense.  They could struggle, again, to do so against Bosnia's defense. Bosnia kept Argentina close, but ultimately fell. Edin Dzeko will be required to do more in this matchup as the Bosnians are also in need of points. 

Day 8 Rewind: We found a new dark horse candidate for the title in France. The French destroyed the Swiss in a game that all but locks up a spot for France and the 5-2 score destroys the Swiss goal differential in their battle against Ecuador for that second spot in the group. Ecuador, meanwhile, allowed Honduras to end their goal-scoring drought in the World Cup, but also did so in a 2-1 loss in a game that was absolutely bonkers in every aspect. Costa Rica are headed to the next round in what was another day of CONCACAF beating up an opponent it wasn't expected to get a result against. Costa Rica beat Italy to eliminate England (Sorry, Piers, that I'm not sorry). Costa Rica's win also sets up a win-and-you-are-in match between Uruguay and Italy on the final matchday of their group. 

Football Follies: ESPN's Alejandro Moreno faulted a Ecuadorian player for not flopping correctly, and then offered pointers on how to flop properly. For a part of the game that is trying to be eliminated, you would think ESPN wouldn't let a guy openly criticize a player's flopping form. Moreno is a good broadcaster, but this is absolutely unacceptable. More importantly, it's a shame.

I'm going to double dip on the follies today. ESPN also showed French fans pre-game in blackface. It's 2014, you guys. That's not okay, and it's certainly not okay to broadcast that during the French National Anthem. ESPN's World Cup coverage has been stellar, and will continue to be, but these are two big no-no's. 

Predictions: Argentina 4, Iran 0. Germany 2, Ghana 1. Bosnia-Herzegovina 3, Nigeria 1.