From Ground Zero: Argentina to clash with Swiss, France to meet Nigeria

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena

Lionel Messi caught up with Neymar as the leading goal scorer of the World Cup as he scored two goals on Wednesday in Argentina’s 3-2 victory against Nigeria at the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.

Arriving as a future star, Messi had scored his first goal in a World Cup 2006, in a 6-0 rout of Serbia and Montenegro. In 2010, in South Africa, he had arrived as the world`s best but went blank for a team that had Diego Maradona as coach. In Brazil 2014, the Argentine player managed to open his account immediately in 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Then he made the winning goal in 1-0 win over Iran.

On Wednesday, Messi put on a great show against Nigeria in his side`s 3-2 win in an entertaining game against the Super Eagles in the teams` last Group F match. Both the squads advanced to the Round of 16. Ezequiel Garay Scored the winner for Argentina in the 50th minute, breaking a 2-2 draw and giving Argentina a perfect record heading into the knockout round. Ahmed Musa had two goals for Nigeria as the Africans twice canceled Argentina’s lead.

In the evening, with three goals from Shaqiri, Switzerland beat the heat of Manaus and the Honduras national team to advance to the pre-quarter-final of the World Cup. In the next phase, the team will face Argentina in Sao Paulo on Tuesday. The European team, which complained about the weather before the game, was surgical in their approach. They controlled the game and, when attacked, always took risk with fast counter attacks.

Shaqiri scored the first goal in the 6th minute of the first half and extended the lead in 31st minute. In the second half, the team from Central America jumped into the attack and made some dangerous moves as thet received massive support from the Brazilian fans in the stadium. But the Swiss sealed the game with one more goal in the 26th minute of the second half. Since 1994, no Swiss player has scored two goals in a single World Cup match. But Shaqiri managed a hat-trick in the game that it needed to win to make it to the next round.

But after the game, the Swiss players waited for the end of the match between France and Ecuador to celebrate their own win.

In the game between Ecuador and France, even with an extra player in the entire second half, France only managed a goalless draw against the South American country in the last round of Group E of the World Cup at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

The first half of the game was all about missed chances. Everything changed at the beginning of the second half, when the most experienced player of Ecuador midfielder Antonio Valencia was sent off after hitting the French defender Digne with his boot.

With one player more in their ranks, the French created several scoring opportunities. However, Didier Deschamps`s team could not overcome the Ecuadorean goalkeeper, considered the best in the field by Fifa.

With the result, France did climb to seven points and finished in first position in Group E. The Ecuadorians got four points and had to exit.

In the pre-quarter-final, France will face Nigeria next Monday in Brasilia and the Swiss face Argentina on Tuesday in Sao Paulo. France wanted to win the game and top Group E to avoid a showdown with Argentina in the pre-quarter-finals. On their part, the Ecuadoreans wanted to win the game and have the same score as the Swiss in order to make it the next round.

In the first half, the only real scoring chance were all made by Ecuadorian. The South Americans almost scored after 40 minutes, when Arroyo forced Lloris to make a fine save after completing a cross to Enner Valencia with a header into the ground.

The French fans cared little about the apathy of the team and sang the Marseillaise in the minutes prior to the interval.

Now, the group level games are coming to end, with last games set to be played on Thursday. From Saturday, the World Cup will enter the knock-out phase.

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