Sure, Iran are fairly limited in the final third, but then so were England and Spain. Crucially, however, Carlos Queiroz's side are far more sound and intelligent defensively, which counts for a great deal in the ruthless setting of a World Cup. While Spain shipped in seven goals from their opening two games and England conceded four, Iran have only seen their goal breached on one occasion and that being a Lionel Messi screamer that no goalkeeper could have prevented. Organised, hard-working and committed, Iran's defence and protective midfield is everything that England and Spain did not have.
- - -
Argentina have made the perfect start to the World Cup
Winning while playing badly may not be the most convincing way to get backing, but it certainly bodes well for the long haul. Teams who start very fast - and France or the Netherlands may prove be the classic example of this - often struggle to sustain their momentum and fade away in the knock-out stages. But for Argentina, the best is surely still to come with Messi so far having hauled his side over the line in both games. Winning ugly may not inspire fans, but it is certainly effective and ominous.
- - -
Messi has produced two good goals, now he needs to play well
Okay, so Messi has done what was necessary; he was produced what was really required. But with his team-mates not showing much in support of him, the forward must begin to take control of matches and dictate the play, as Diego Maradona did in 1986. He must inspire the players around him and bring the best out of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, et al. Two fine goals have papered over the cracks but if this tournament is going to be remembered for more than fleeting moments of Messi magic, he must begin to give his side real impetus from the outset. Not too much pressure, then!
- - -
Mario Goetze is very good at football
Ten international goals in 31 games from midfield at the age of just 22 really is something. Indeed, Goetze could be forgiven for thinking that international football is absurdly easy. He has now scored five goals in his last nine competitive matches for Germany, three in his last three and four in five in 2014. Considering his job is to provide energy and spark from the midfield, it's fair to say that he is executing that role quite brilliantly for his country.
- - -
It's safer and easier to celebrate with the eyes only
We saw two very notable celebrations as Ghana and Germany played out an enthralling draw: Andre Ayew managed a very striking and frightening one by using only his eyes, while the record-equalling Miroslav Klose attempted and failed with a front flip. It may be his traditional celebration, but at the age of 36 it was ambitious bordering on stupidity as he almost slipped and did not manage to land at all convincingly. Much better to focus on the eyes and bulging neck veins.
- - -
Klose really is a goal-hanger, but he's done alright out of it
As the below graphic proved, Klose really is a very one-dimensional player - but boy is it effective. Klose scored with his first touch of the ball, 112 seconds after coming on as a sub, and he became only the third player in World Cup history to score in four different editions. He has 70 goals in 133 appearances spanning 13 years with his national team and a record-equalling 15 in World Cups. It really is time we started taking this prolific poacher more seriously, even if his body of work includes an abundance of tap-ins.
— ESPN.co.uk (@ESPNUK) June 21, 2014
- - -
Nigeria are showing real maturity which will be rewarded
African sides over the years have often been bemoaned for naivety that has denied their talent from shining through, but this Nigeria side have played their cards very wisely so far. It is perhaps not the most talented, creative team they have turned out in recent years, but they have been canny in settling for a draw with Iran instead of going for broke, and shielding a 1-0 advantage against Bosnia that leaves them very well placed to progress.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Miroslav Klose