Argentina have problems at the back
Argentina's strengths are pretty obvious, primarily being Lionel Messi and their strong three-man midfield, with Angel Di Maria their other primary attacking threat and, while Gonzalo Higuain hasn't scored yet in this tournament, the Napoli forward will always be a problem for opposition defences. However, at the other end of the pitch they still have some issues. Sergio Romero still looks like a goalkeeper who didn't play a great deal of club football last season, one suspects a decent right winger will have fun if they run at Marcos Rojo, and the central defensive pair of Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez are still vulnerable. If Ahmed Musa could find the room to waltz through them a couple of times, then some of the more accomplished attacks in the competition will have plenty of fun.
Lavezzi brings balance to Argentina's attack
While Sergio Aguero is quite obviously a magnificent player, his withdrawal due to injury just before half-time of their win over Nigeria wasn't the worst thing in the world for Alejandro Sabella. Ezequiel Lavezzi was brought on in his place, and Argentina immediately looked more balanced, largely because Messi and Aguero tend to try and occupy similar spaces, whereas Lavezzi, more used to dealing with central superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani at PSG, seems happier to stick to wide areas, thus creating more space in which Messi can work, and Di Maria can exploit from midfield.
Nigeria may not go much further
Despite their defeat to Argentina, Nigeria are through to the next round, making them the only African country to qualify for the second phase so far. However, one fears for their chances in the last 16, for they will face a France side who have shown how rampant they can be after scoring eight goals over their first three games. Steven Keshi's men are a game bunch capable of odd moments of quality, but in truth they are a fairly limited side, and the French should, by rights, make fairly short work of them.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 25, 2014
Valencia's red mist?
Antonio Valencia has been sent off three times since moving to England in 2006. That's three times in 276 appearances for Wigan and Manchester United, which isn't exactly a squeaky clean disciplinary record, but equally doesn't make him the Ecuadorian Lee Cattermole either. So what happens to him when he plays for Ecuador? Does a red mist of nationalism descend over his eyes, turning him into a violent dervish with a nose for blood? Well, probably not, but it's perfectly possible that Valencia simply feels more personally responsibility when representing his country, partly due to being the captain but also due to having fewer quality players around him. This could quite easily manifest itself in an excess of 'enthusiasm', enthusiasm that was expressed on Lucas Digne's shins.
The other Valencia
Buying players based on performance at the World Cup is a rum old business. Indeed, such are the advances in scouting networks, the ubiquity of foreign football and so forth that there are very few surprises at the World Cup any more, so if there is anyone worth buying in Brazil, clubs will already know about them. However, if there is anyone who has surprised at the World Cup it is Enner Valencia, the striker who plays for Pachua in Mexico, and has provided some thrilling moments in Ecuador's ultimately doomed campaign, not least a few pacy runs against France an an utterly extraordinary leap for a header in the first half, in which he seemed to hang in the air. If any English club is looking for a striker, on this evidence (admittedly, dangerous words) then they could do much worse than Valencia.
We'll miss you, Ecuador
Several teams that have been eliminated from the tournament so far, it's fair to say, will not be missed. Few will shed any tears that Honduras are heading home, not many will weep at Japan's elimination, and the tournament won't exactly grind to a halt without England, either. However, we may miss Ecuador, who have brought a degree of verve and attacking flair to a World Cup that has helped to make this World Cup one of the most memorable in recent years. It of course wasn't a failure to beat France that did for them, but the last minute winner scored by Switzerland in their earlier clash that was the killer. Small margins, this World Cup.
If the World Cup is a shop window for players sniffing around a move, then Xherdan Shaqiri has done his chances no harm with an exceptional hat-trick to secure Switzerland's place in the second round. The winger was at best a bit-part player for Bayern Munich last season, and there is plenty of speculation that he will be offloaded this summer as Pep Guardiola's men continue their attempt to win the Bundesliga by around a million points. If any potential buyer was wondering if he could perform on a big stage, then he might just have answered their questions.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Angel Di Maria
- Antonio Valencia