It’s been a fabulous World Cup thus far full of excitement, drama and some wonderful performances. In this article @0riginalfooty looks back at groups E-H and picks out the highlights of the group.
Star Man: Mathieu Valbuena – Valbuena has been a different class for France in this tournament. He played in France’s first two crushing victories over Honduras and Switzerland but was rested for France’s stuttering draw against Ecuador and it was evident how much they missed him.
Best Match: Switzerland 2-5 France – This was most definitely one of the best matches at the World Cup so far. The French were at their imperious best but the Swiss managed to throw in a couple of magnificent goals for good measure. There was even late excitement as Karim Benzema was denied a wonder goal by a premature whistle from the referee. Terrific match.
Biggest disappointment: Honduras – They threatened to put up a bit of a fight against Ecuador but they were generally just the whipping boys of the group and crashed out with no points.
Side that will go furthest: France – Switzerland will almost certainly fall in the next round to Messi and Argentina but the French will be quietly confident that they can go really deep into the tournament. With a good draw against Nigeria in the next round, there can be no excuses for them not to reach the quarter-finals.
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3pts
Star Man: Lionel Messi – Who else? The World Cup’s joint top scorer has scored 4 goals in 3 matches and has been voted man of the match in each of the games he has played in. Argentina are relying heavily on him if they are to mount a serious challenge at the World Cup and he looks up to the challenge.
Best Match: Nigeria 2-3 Argentina – In the end it was a match that meant very little but it was the fastest starting game in the group stages with two goals in the first 5 minutes. It was, ultimately, Messi’s magic that carried the Argentine’s through but it was a very enjoyable contest.
Biggest disappointment: Bosnia and Herzegovina – They managed to defeat Iran and were always expected to lose to Argentina but they offered very little when it really mattered against main group rivals Nigeria and were out of the tournament before they had even kicked a ball in the final match.
Side that will go furthest: Argentina – It’s very difficult to see Switzerland troubling the Argentines or Nigeria pushing France too hard so Argentina should at least progress to the quarter-finals whereas Nigeria should crash out to France.
Star Man: Thomas Müller – Müller already has 4 goals this tournament and is one of the top scorers. He is one of the best finishers in the game and is unrivalled at his ability to find himself in open space in the opposition penalty area.
Best Match: USA 2-2 Portugal – There were a couple of really good games in this group but this was the pick of them. The second half of this match was, in my opinion, the best of the competition so far. It was a fast and furious affair that both sides were desperate to win. The USA were so close to victory but a late Portuguese equalizer deep into stoppage time was enough to secure a draw.
Biggest disappointment: Portugal – The Portuguese are another high-profile European side to duck out of the World Cup prematurely. They really didn’t perform well in this tournament and only managed a victory against a Ghanaian side who were in turmoil having had two senior players sent home amidst squad unrest.
Side that will go furthest: Germany – The USA have a chance to take out Belgium in the next round, although it wont be easy, but it is tough to see them really threatening to win the tournament as a whole. Germany, on the other hand, are one of the favourites and will be disappointed if they don’t make it to the semi-finals.
South Korea 1pt
Star Man: Divock Origi – He may not have started many games but his impact from the bench has been crucial for the Belgians so far. Marc Wilmots admitted that Origi would not have been selected for the squad had Christian Benteke been fit but the 19 year old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands.
Best Match: South Korea 2-4 Algeria – Group H was generally filled with fairly cagey matches that weren’t always easy on the eye, however, this match was the exception. Both sides attacked and played open and expansive football and scored six goals between them, with the Algerians coming out on top.
Biggest disappointment: Russia – The Russians have had a very poor tournament and really should have qualified in a relatively weak group. They played very negatively and continuously left their main creative force, Alan Dzagoev, on the bench.
Side that will go furthest: Belgium – Belgium have a tough match against the USA in the next round but Algeria do not have a chance of upsetting Germany in the last 16 so, by default, Belgium are more likely to go the furthest.