CHICAGO --The 10th day of the World Cup tournament in Brazil produced some magical moments in the opening match on Saturday. And leave it to perhaps the best player in the world, the man who carries the flag of greatness for Argentina, Lionel Messi.
The 5th-ranked Argentines faced 43rd-rated Iran at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, before a huge throng of their fans clad in the country's colors of Carolina blue and white. The Princes of Persia played stout defense and if not for Messi, Iran's keeper Alireza Haghighi would have been the man of the match. He made countless saves against the potent Argentines, including a few against Messi. But in the 90th minute, Messi displayed the greatness that has earned him the Ballon d'Or (world's greatest player) four times. He broke through the stifling Iranian defense, collected the orb, paused, dribbled two steps to his left and blasted the ball past the outstretched hands of Haghighi for the game winner.
Argentina becomes the first team in Group F to advance to the knockout round. Their final game of this opening round will take place against Nigeria next Wednesday. I'd have to say with Spain out, Argentina joins The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico,Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, France, the United States and Germany as the teams that have the best chance at winning the golden trophy.
In the day's second match, Germany, ranked 2nd in the world, ran into a Ghanaian team which played out of their minds. The contest was scoreless until the 51st minute when Mario Goetze received a pass from Thomas Mueller and headed the ball off his knee and past Fatawu Dauda for a 1-0 lead. But three minutes later, the Ghanaians tied the game when Andrew Ayew surprised the world's best keeper, Manuel Neuer, with a leaping header into the left side of the German goal. In the 63rd minute Ghana took the lead as Sulley Montari stole the ball, fed Asamoah Gyan and he nailed it past Neuer for a 2-1 lead and Germany was stunned.
But in the 70th minute, Germany's greatest World Cup goal scorer, Miroslav Klose, came in off the bench and within a minute he made a sliding kick of Benedikt Hoewedes' header and the game was tied. It remained that way through additional time, a 2-2 tie which throws group G into an advantage for Team USA.
Germany has four points in the group and America plays Portugal tomorrow at 5cst on ESPN. The Portuguese have a hobbled superstar in Christiano Ronaldo, they are without star defender Pepe because of a red card in their loss to Germany and two other key players are out as well. The Americans are without Josey Altidore because of a hamstring strain. Texas-tough Clint Dempsey has a broken nose but you'd have to break both his legs to keep him out. If the United States wins Sunday, they advance to the knockout stage because of Germany's tie Saturday, and I'm predicting a Team USA VICTORY!!!!
In the day's final game, Boznia & Herzegovina was upset by Nigeria 1-0. Controversy in the first half. In the 21st minute B&H forward Edin Dzeko appeared to score but the officials ruled him offsides when he was clearly not. Eight minutes later, Emmanuel Emenike streaked down the near side, held off B&H defender Emir Spahic, fed Peter Odemwingie and he beat Asmir Begovic easily for a 1-0 lead. B&H protested that Emenike held Spahic illegally and it should have been a yellow card instead of a goal. The referee disagreed and the goal stood. Referee Peter O'Leary of New Zealand and his crew should not book any passage to or thru Sarajevo any time soon. First time for Boznia & Herzegovina in the World Cup and they have been eliminated from the round of 16.
So that brings me to Sunday's predictions. As I mentioned earlier, I've got the United States beating Portugal, Belgium defeats Russia and Algeria is my pick to down the Korean Republic. Get your red, white and blue out, gang, and GO USA!
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Since joining ABC7 in 1982, Jim Rose has become a major force in Chicago sports broadcasting. He currently serves as sports anchor/reporter for ABC7 News in Chicago's top-rated 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts. He is an avid fan of the World Cup! Learn more about Jim