From Ground Zero: Messi scores but fails to impress in first game

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena from Rio de Janeiro

Lionel Messi had a disappointing season for Barcelona this year. For a few minutes on Sunday, the Maracana stadium here saw the star disappear again, until he came back in his style: drag passes and a great goal. With more than 30,000 Argentinian supporters in the stadium, the Maracana started celebrating just in the 3rd minute when Bosnia scored an own goal on a free kick by Messi. Later in the second half, Messi almost put the game beyond Bosnia as he scored the fantastic goal. The Bosnians had a flicker of hope in the 38th minute of the second half when they pulled one back but the final result read 2-1 in this important Group F game of the World Cup.

It was the first step of the Argentine dream of winning the Cup on Brazilian soil and show to the world that Messi was among the best in the history of sport. The football played on Sunday night was not the best. The match missed the kind of thrill that was seen during England-Italy game on Saturday. But the Argentine number 10 proved that if the match result depends on an individual, Argentina should have hope.

Argentina had good start as they had a goal after just two minutes after Kolasinac inadvertently touched sent the ball into his own goal. After that goal, the Argentines went to sleep and it was 43 minutes of dull football, with neither team making great moves.

Then in the second half, Messi woke up and scored a beautiful goal. It was not Messi’s best performance, but the game made it clear that Argentina is completely dependent on him.

Earlier in the day in a Group E match, France beat Honduras 3-0. The interesting feature of this match was the use of goal-line technology for the first time. The technology, which is being used for the first time at the World Cup, came into play on the fourth day when France’s second goal against Honduras was awarded after replays showed that Karim Benzema’s shot went off the post, hit keeper Noel Valladares, and crossed the line before Valladares pulled it back across.

All the 12 stadiums in Brazil are equipped with 14 high-speed cameras and the referee wears a special watch that transmits a visual and audio message within half a second of the incident. Within seconds of the shot, Italian referee Sandro Ricci checked his watch and awarded France the goal. But there was some confusion because the tech was used for two instances in rapid succession. Benzema`s initial shot, which hit the post and skidded across the goal-line, didn`t go in and was deemed no-goal. But then the ball bounced off Valladares and crossed the line by millimeters, which the tech called a goal.

In another game of the same group, Haris Seferovic scored in the last minute of injury time to grab Switzerland a dramatic 2-1 win against Ecuador in Brasilia. Seferovic’s winner capped a remarkable comeback by the top seeds in the group as fellow substitute Admer Mehmidi took just 121 seconds to make his mark as he levelled the game in the 48th minute. Enner Valencia had given Ecuador the lead midway through the first-half as he scored for the fifth successive game for his country.

Ecuador started the game as a better team and it was little surprise when they went ahead in the 22nd minute as former captain Walter Ayovi whipped in a superb free-kick from the left and the unmarked Enner Valencia rose to send his header past Diego Benaglio and into the net. As the game progressed, the Swiss found it hard to settle.

This World Cup is turning into a goal feast with several teams like Brazil, Chile, Colombia and France scoring three goals each in their opening games. Till the fourth day of the World Cup, not a single game has ended in a draw. And as the Dutch scored five goals against the current World Champions Spain, experts are already talking about this being the best World Cup ever in terms of goals and quality of football.

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