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France and Argentina were the headliners, with the former looking to get back to the finale as in 2006, with a win this time. All eyes were on the latter’s Lionel Messi, with the label “world’s greatest,” or at least better than Maradona, hanging in the balance. Not to be overlooked, the Swiss stun Equador in the last few seconds of stoppage time.
Group C: Switzerland v Equador, 2-1
Getting eclipsed by more well-known names as Messi and Benzema, Switzerland and Equador gave a nail-biting finish to what was likely going to be the first draw of competition. Ecuador’s Enner Valencia put them on top with a goal at the 22nd minute, but the Swiss’ Mehmedi equalized just after the beginning of the second half. 3 minutes of stoppage time was getting close as we thought we were going to see the first tie of the tournament when Switzerland’s Haris Seferovic put the ball in the back of the net. The New York Times noted they were on 20 seconds left to play, which also went in the books as the latest goal scored in World Cup history.
Group D: France v Honduras, 3-0
An extremely physical Honduras tried to make their presence known to France on the pitch but their plan backfired as Wilson Palacios was sent off with a red card, and left Honduras to play as 10. As SB Nation notes, Karim Benzema stepped up on a penalty kick and gave France the lead, in both goals and confidence, just before the end of the half. Benzema would come out the second half on fire as a rebounded shot and off the hands of Honduran goalkeeper Valladares would produce an own-goal. Benzema again struck at the 72nd minute in what could have been a hat-trick, but ending in a brace for France’s opening match of the tournament.
Group D: Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2-1
Criticism and praise are abound for great players, and if they don’t deliver, scrutiny prevails. In the opening match for arguably one of the game’s greatest, Lionel Messi and his Argentina side, came out on top but only due to an unlucky own-goal from Bosnia-Herzegovina. A ”wicked free-kick” from Messi sent it into the box but unfortunately Bosnian defender Kolasinac deflected the ball into the back of the net. All was silent until the 64th minute when Bosnia struck back with an equalizer. Messi would eventually score the game winner in the 84th minute, silencing critics.
June 16: Remaining two from Group F and all four from Group G, with Germany v Portugal, Iran v Nigeria, and USA v Ghana.