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There is no getting away from it this World Cup is turning out quite nicely. The Switzerland – Ecuador match was stuttering to the first draw of the tournament when the game was turned on its head. As Ecuador charged forward it looked to be the final chance of the match. Instead a combination of elaboration, hesitancy and a crushing tackle from Switzerland midfielder Behrami suddenly brought the end to the move and started another.
Should We Praise Sabella or Bury Him? 
06/15/2014
 
Daily McMahon

There is no getting away from it. This World Cup is turning out quite nicely. The Switzerland – Ecuador match was stuttering to the first draw of the tournament when the game was turned on its head. As Ecuador charged forward it looked to be the final chance of the match. Instead a combination of elaboration, hesitancy and a crushing tackle from Switzerland midfielder Behrami suddenly brought the end to the move and started another. 

As Behrami surged forward, he made to ride an Ecuadorian tackle inside his own half but he failed and stumbled to the ground. More times than not, two things would have then happened. The first is that Behrami would have gone down and stayed down and the other would have been a foul and yellow card from the referee. But rather, Behrami bounced up, the referee played advantage and less than 20 seconds later Switzerland had scored the winning goal. Wonderful stuff. 

Honduras has yet to leave a mark on the World Cup but they did leave marks on a number of French players. Honduras had been criticized for an excessively muscular approach in a warm-up match against England and it was clear that the Central Americans saw bringing a physical style to their World Cup opener as being one way of making up for the gulf in ability. 

It was an approach that had Honduras playing on the fine edge of legal and illegal and meant that they had little opportunity to pose problems for the French defense. The penalty kick and second yellow card to Wilson Palacios came as half time was in sight. The second was courtesy of goal line technology that “credited” an own goal off the Honduran keeper after Benzema’s initial effort hit the inside of the post. 

So, should we be criticizing Argentina’s manager Alex Sabella for getting his starting formation so wrong or praise him for correcting the mistake at half time? Why he decided to start with three defenders, a deep lying midfielder ala Mascherano just in front and two wingbacks is a mystery. Although, Argentina went in at half time 1-0 up they were hardly deserving of the led that came from an own goal. 

To say that Argentina lacked balance would be a bit like saying Sepp Blatter has a slight ego problem. There was no flow to Argentina’s play and it looked like there were too many players trying to play in far too few defensive positions. There was no tempo or rhythm to Argentina’s play.  

With Gaga and Higuain introduced at the break and Argentina started to look far more convincing with the former a very effective but understated influence. A typical Messi goal that hasn’t been all that typical lately doubled Argentina’s lead although some characteristic opportunism from Ibisevic made for a nervy last few minutes for Argentina. 

Takeaways

• Both Switzerland and Ecuador focused their attack around one potential match winner. For Switzerland it was Shaqiri while Ecuador looked to left winger Montero. Although both looked dangerous at times they both lacked that key final pass. 

• It was noticeable how deep Behrami was asked to play in order to offer extra protection to Lichtsteiner as he lined up against Montero. Rather than sitting in front of the centre backs Behrami played just in front of and in between the right centre back and Lichtsteiner. For the most part it worked although it restricted Behrami until Montero was substituted with 13 minutes left. 

• The first two goals came from atrocious defending. A limp-wristed challenge from Gruezo would not have been enough to put off a cookie-selling Girl Guide let alone Swiss substitute Mehmedi. The first goal was even worse. The Swiss defence did not even get in a challenge on Enner Valencia as he headed home from the edge of the six yard box. 

• Ricardo Rodriguez came into this tournament as a defender who is at his best when he gets forward. Nothing supports that notion more than Rodriguez up in attack and delivering the vital assist for the winning goal with 93 minutes on the clock. Ricardo Rodriguez, my Man of the Match. 

• France will be glad to have three points, no injuries and no red cards after beating Honduras 3-0. What they did not get was anything resembling a proper test of their World Cup credentials. Honduras are equipped to defend against any opposition but the further forward you go the more the talent gap becomes a chasm. Too many Honduran moves had a lifespan of two passes or less.

• The twitter-sphere was revving up with Messi beginning to take the brunt of criticism at and just after half-time. We all got his answer – spectacular goal and one that very few players in the world could score. 

• Javier Mascherano was at his best against Bosnia Hercegovina plugging holes, starting attacks and always looking to take the ball of a colleague under pressure. My Man of the Match but Pjanic ran him close. 

• There was more than enough in Bosnia’s performance to give them legitimate hope of qualifying from Group F with Argentina. The midfield was lively and defensively they looked stronger than might have been expected. The issue might be ensuring that there is no let down after the adrenaline rush of the opening game at the Maracana.  

• Like Brazil, Argentina did not look like World Cup winners-in-waiting but in order to win the World Cup teams need to find extra gears come the knock rounds. There is every reason to believe that both countries have these extra gears. 

Time Machine

Switzerland left it late to beat Ecuador. But check out this game from sixty years ago at the 1954 World Cup Final. Twelve goals and the game was played in 40 degree heat. It might just be the best game ever played at a World Cup but one of the least known. It is sensational stuff. 

 
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