Sport | More magic from Messi, now can Ronaldo step up to the plate?
Euan Cunningham rounds up the action from Day 10 of the World Cup, including a landmark goalscoring achievement, before previewing Day 11.
Day 10 saw perhaps the most exciting, combative game of the tournament so far, as Germany and Ghana drew 2-2. The Ghanaians showed pluck, endeavour and no little skill in coming from a goal down to take a 2-1 lead, before the familiar goal-poaching acumen of Miroslav Klose rescued a point for Germany.
For all the talk of Germany steadily growing into one of the tournament favourites, it was Ghana who created the best chances in a hectic first period. However, the Germans wasted little time in asserting themselves after the restart, when Mario Goetze met Muller’s cross (more with his face than his head, but that will not worry him) to nod them into the lead. Surely the underdogs would now wilt? Not a bit of it. Their response was swift, sharp and brilliant, Andre Ayew thumping a much more conventional header past Manuel Neuer. And they were not content to then shut up shop and protect a point, as they showed by notching another just a few minutes later. A sloppy pass in midfield was cut out by Sulley Muntari, who slipped in Asamoah Gyan (Sunderlands forgotten man), who kept his composure and rifled home to give Ghana a sensational lead.
However, Joachim Low’s side still had one trump card to play. With one of his first touches since coming off the bench, Klose stuck out a predatory right boot to divert a wayward header into the corner of the net and, in doing so, equals Ronaldo’s record as the joint-top goalscorer in World Cup history.
In the days other matches, Argentina showed gritty determination and eventually a piece of sparkling magic to see off an Iran side who had created at least half the overall chances and deserved at least a point. With the match still level in the 91st minute, Messi (who had looked sharp but lacked real opportunities), produced a sensational 25-yard arrow of a shot that curled and fizzed past the despairing dive of the Iranian goalkeeper to win the game.
Nigeria won the other game on Saturday, beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in a tight contest that means Edin Dzeko & co will not qualify for the next stage in their first World Cup. Peter Odemwingie scored the winner on 29 minutes, collecting a cross from the right and finishing with composure past his club colleague Asmir Begovic. Despite Dzeko having several good opportunities to level, he failed to find the target and could not save his sides campaign.
Sundays games start with an an intriguing clash between Russia and Belgium. With the Belgians looking distinctly off-colour in their opening game despite eventually beating Algeria. now is their chance to show their true quality against a Russian side who themselves disappointed in their opening game, a 1-1 draw versus South Korea.
The other two sides in Group H meet next, with South Korea against Algeria the meeting between the two unfancied teams in the group. Despite this, the winner would give Belgium or Russia something to think about going into the last game. However, a draw would do little for either team.
Last but not least is the USA v Portugal. The latter were terrible against Germany, with the appalling lack of discipline from Pepe symptomatic of the whole teams performance. They must do much better against a USA side who will surely be buoyant after their last gasp win against Ghana. Clint Dempsey showed his genuine quality with a mazy run followed by a calm finish, while defender John Brooks’ 86th minute header to win it, and subsequent overwhelmed reaction, must surely rank as one of the moments of the tournament so far. The USA have spirit, quality and a never-say-die attitude, but whether they can live with a Ronaldo presumably still smarting from his own sub-standard performance against Germany is another matter entirely.