Javier Mascherano

Nigeria 2-3 Argentina: Messi provides magic as Argentina march on

Two goals from Lionel Messi sent Argentina through from Group F as winners while opponents Nigeria will join them in the next round.

Messi’s second, his 24th goal in his last 23 games for his country, was a sublime swerving free-kick in first half stoppage time that left Vincent Enyeama with no chance. The Lille Goalkeeper just left to admire it like the rest of us.

Argentina’s star opened the scoring after just three minutes when he smashed home Angel di Maria’s rebounded effort following an ingenious through ball by Javier Mascherano.

The winner came from a more unlikely source though when Marcos Rojo bundled in a corner off his knee, not knowing much about it, but they all count.

Man of the match Messi was substituted in the second half as a precaution for the latter stages of his tournament, his two goals being a nice belated present for the man who turned 27 yesterday.

Ahmed Musa had an equally impressive game for the Super Eagles with a brace of his own.

His first, a curled effort from a relatively tight angle on the left hand side of the box that was beyond Sergio Romero and nestled in the corner for 1-1, seconds after Messi’s opener.

Musa tied the scoring again in the second half, again shortly after Messi had given Argentina the lead, two minutes after this time. Musa muscled his way through several challenges before cooly finishing past Romero for 2-2.

It was La Albiceleste who picked up the three points though but Nigeria are also through to the last 16 as Bosnia defeated Iran 3-1 in Salvador.

Sergio Aguero limped off in the opening period however and Argentina will be hoping his tournament is not over.

 

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina

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A magical moment from Lionel Messi was the high point of an otherwise average encounter that saw Argentina run out 2-1 winners in Bosnia & Herzegovina’s maiden World Cup match.

The game itself was not as exciting as many had expected but the 65th minute saw the moment the footballing world had been waiting for. Lionel Messi picked up the ball twenty yards from goal and jinked past several defenders and then delicately curled the ball out of the reach of despairing Asmir Begovic.

It was a goal worthy of gracing the stage that is the Maracana, made even sweeter by the fact that Messi had been largely uninspiring before his moment.

Bosnia’s first World Cup could not have got off to a worst start though. After just three minutes Messi’s free-kick was inadvertently turned in by Sead Kolasinac as he tried to clear but the ball deflected off the wrong part of his leg and into the net.

In a half with very little goalmouth action, Javier Mascherano came closest for Argentina with a speculative shot that Begovic dealt with easily.

Senad Lulic provided Bosnia’s best chance when his powerful header from Martin Pjanic’s corner was saved well by Sergio Romero.

Izet Hajrovic did his level best to equalize at 1-1 for the Bosnians but he could only shoot straight at Romero twice, first from a free-kick and then from twenty yards out.

They did however score their first ever World Cup goal when Lulic played an itelligent pass to Vedad Ibisevic who nutmegged Romero to claim the historic honour with five minutes to play.

The Golden Lillies just couldn’t find a leveler though and Argentina held on to claim their first three points.

Have Chelsea finally found Claude Makelele’s successor in Nemanja Matic?

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Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu. Chelsea have tried and failed to find the man to fill Claude Makelele’s boots since his 2008 departure. While the trio have had relative success in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, none of them have come close to having the influence Makelele did. In Nemanja Matic though, Chelsea may have found the solution.

Claude Makelele arrived at Stamford Bridge in the Summer of 2003 for a fee of £16.8 million after being outcast by Real Madrid as they denied his request of a better contract and continued building their “Galacticos” squad without him. The defining mistake by Florentino Perez and possibly the main reason why Real failed to add to their ninth Champions League win in 2002 where Makelele was a regular.

We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” – Perez (2003)

On arriving in West London, then Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said of Makelele that he would be “the battery” of the Chelsea side, and right he was too. Thanks to the Frenchman, and Chelsea’s other signings that year in the first season under Roman Abramovich’s era, Chelsea finished Premiership runners up and reached the Champions League semi finals for the first time ever, losing to Monaco who would go on to be beat by Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.

Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager the following season of course and under him, Chelsea would transform into the European superpower we know them as today. Makelele blossomed in Mourinho’s style of play, his defensive work, along with a solid back five of Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas, meant that Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all season while his passing ability allowed players such as Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba to attack the opposition at will. “The Makelele role”, as it would be known, was born.

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Every team across the land it seemed was after their very own Claude Makelele. Liverpool signed Javier Mascherano, Arsenal opted for Alex Song, Manchester United acquired Michael Carrick while Tottenham snapped up Didier Zokora. Although three quarters of these signings were no doubt successful (Zokora being the exception), none of them were, or are, as good as Makelele.

The role has been adapted slightly in modern times with the fancy named “Deep Lying Playmaker” or “Regista” role being the latest fashionable term. Well known “DLPs” are Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Jack Wilshere while Sergio Busquets is regarded as an efficient Regista.

Makelele continued to shine in a Chelsea shirt for the next three seasons but his last game was to come, aptly in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final, the 2008 clash with Manchester United. It would only have been more fitting if Chelsea had won that night in Moscow’s Red City, to give the mercurial Frenchman the greatest of send offs, much like Drogba’s in 2012.

Chelsea’s number four departed West London for Paris Saint Germain where he spent three seasons, won a Coupe de France in 09/10 and retired the following year to become Assistant Manager, which he remains as today.

Nemanja Matic put pen to paper on a four year deal at Chelsea in 2009 for a £1.5 million fee having spent time on trial at Middlesbrough and he was clearly signed as 2006 World Cup runner up Makelele’s long term replacement. Matic made two appearances in his first spell as a Chelsea player before joining feeder club Vitesse Arnhem on loan where he scored twice in 27 games for the Eridivisie club. Having failed to make a mark on the Premier League though he was sold to Benfica in a player plus cash deal worth £21 million plus David Luiz.

Matic announced himself onto the European stage in the Portuguese Capital, scoring six goals in 56 games over the course of three seasons, including one strike against Porto that finished second in the Puskas Award (given to the year’s best goal) of last season, losing out to Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s acrobatic effort against England before rejoining the 2012 Champions League winners for £21 million in January of this year.

Like Makelele, Matic has the ability to break down the play and slow down the midfield to tire the opposition with accurate passing to support his pinpoint tackles, and what’s more intimidating for his rivals is that Matic might even become better than his predecessor. He’s more dynamic than Makelele was and at a younger age too, and more impressively, is a larger threat going forward making him a more versatile player than his French counterpart. Already this season we’ve seen the Serbian crack the woodwork from long range against Manchester City at the Etihad and have a goal disallowed against Aston Villa for a questionable handball. Makelele only scored two goals in a Chelsea shirt, a rebounded Penalty against Charlton (which he originally had saved) and an 18 yard curler against Tottenham, which as great as it was, was his only shot of the entire season.

With Nemanja Matic the latest man being given the job of controlling the Blues’ midfield and so far looking more in control than anyone has in a good while, Chelsea seem to have finally found the man who has filled the Claude Makelele shaped void in the centre of the pitch.