World Cup Capsules: France clinches top spot in Group E; Ecuador out
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Argentina beat Nigeria 3-2 in the last World Cup Group F match on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi and Ahmed Musa scoring two goals each before Marcos Rojo kneed in the winner.
Argentina topped the group and Nigeria also advanced despite the loss, becoming the first African team in the Round of 16 in Brazil.
Messi had his best match of the World Cup so far, scoring twice in the first half to boost his tournament total to four goals, and repeatedly cutting up Nigeria’s defense with dazzling runs and clever passes.
“We played against a team that wanted to play,” Messi said. “I think we saw a good Argentina. We need to continue on this path.”
MANAUS, Brazil — Xherdan Shaqiri scored all three goals Wednesday to put Switzerland into the second round of the World Cup with a lopsided victory over Honduras.
The Swiss will next face Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday in Sao Paulo.
Shaqiri scored his first goal in the sixth minute, dribbling into a crowd of defenders and curling a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar. In the 31st, he collected a pass from Josip Drmic after a defensive error and easily beat Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
Shaqiri completed his hat trick in the 71st. Drmic did well to beat Honduras defender Victor Bernardez on the left and pass to a charging Shaqiri, who one-timed his shot past a diving Valladares.
Switzerland finished second in Group E behind France, which held Ecuador to a 0-0 draw in the other game.
FRANCE 0, ECUADOR 0
RIO DE JANEIRO — France topped Group E despite being held to a scoreless draw by 10-man Ecuador.
Ecuador was reduced to 10 men after Antonio Valencia was shown a straight red card in the 50th minute for digging his studs into the leg of French defender Lucas Digne.
But Ecuador may feel upset that France center half Mamadou Sakho was not shown a red card in the eighth minute when he appeared to elbow Oswaldo Minda in the face during a France corner. Then, in a late incident off the ball, France forward Olivier Giroud jabbed his elbow in to Gabriel Achilier, who was standing behind him.
France coach Didier Deschamps made six changes to his starting lineup, knowing his side was all but assured of advancing.
France came closest to scoring when Antoine Griezmann hit the post in the 47th and then missed a string of late chances as its much-vaunted attacked failed to live up to the hype generated by last Friday’s 5-2 win against Switzerland.
An inspired Ecuador went close in the 82nd when substitute midfielder Alex Ibarra broke down the right, cut inside center half Raphael Varane, and saw his powerful strike beaten away by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 3, IRAN 1
SALVADOR, Brazil — Bosnia-Herzegovina ended Iran’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stages from Group F, and registered its first World Cup win in the process.
The Bosnians, who were already out of contention, took a commanding 2-0 lead with goals from Edin Dzeko in the 23rd and Miralem Pjanic in the 53rd before Iran hit back in a desperate late bid to qualify for the second round.
Reza Ghoochannejhad gave some hope to the Iranians with a tap-in goal in the 81st, but Avdija Vrsaljevic replied immediately with his low shot from the edge of the area to restore the two-goal lead.
Iran needed a win to have any chance of advancing.
“Sorry to our opponents, but this was also an important win for us so we could hold our heads up high leaving this tournament,” Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Safet Susic said. “Throughout the match we were those who wanted to win more.”
The Bosnians were already out of contention at their first World Cup following consecutive losses to Argentina and Nigeria.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz announced after the match that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract.
Suarez as FIFA
RIO DE JANEIRO — As the world was judging Uruguay’s Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in his soccer-crazy country defended the star, blaming the foreign media, his Italian opponents and uneven treatment.
World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday. “It’s our duty to see justice done.”
By wire sources