World Cup: 6 teams vying for 3 spots in 2nd round

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 24, 2014 at 8:02 pm •  Published: June 24, 2014
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — It's Day Three of the in-or-out matches of the World Cup, with six teams battling for three places in the knockout stages.

Group F teams play in the two early fixtures, with Group E following later. Each pair of games is played simultaneously.

Nigeria plays Argentina in a match where a draw suits both teams. It would put Nigeria through and ensure that Argentina finishes top of the group.

But in a World Cup that is not short of upsets, don't write off Iran just yet.

If it beats an already-eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Argentines beat the Nigerians, Iran has every chance of qualifying on goal difference.

Things to watch for Wednesday:

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MESSI'S MAGIC

His teammates called it a moment of magic when Lionel Messi fired home the only goal of Argentina's match against Iran in stoppage time. The strike sealed their place in the last 16, with only a point needed now from the game with Nigeria to finish top.

With Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella saying he will stick with the 4-3-3 formation which Messi prefers, more fireworks should be expected from the Barcelona star.

Nigeria, which lost 1-0 to Argentina in the group stage four years ago, will have central defender Godfrey Oboabona back from injury for what should be its toughest test yet at the tournament.

As a defensive midfielder, Jon Obi Mikel will have a key role in disrupting the supply line to Messi and shielding Nigeria's defense. Coach Stephen Keshi says he is working on a strategy for keeping Argentina's star striker quiet for the full 90 minutes.

But he adds: "I don't think it's something we can share with media."

Venue: Porto Alegre. Kickoff 1 p.m. local time (noon in New York, 5 p.m. London, 1 a.m. Tokyo)

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IRAN'S FINAL

Iran was unlucky to lose to Argentina, with Messi's superb goal coming in injury time.

Now Iran needs to beat an already-eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina — and hope the luck goes its way this time with Nigeria losing to Argentina in Porto Alegre.

Qualifying would then go down to goal difference, which would probably swing things Iran's way.

For a country that has never reached the second round, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was in no mood to downplay the importance of Wednesday's game.

"(It's) our World Cup final," Queiroz he said. "As simple as that."

The Bosnians will leave the tournament with regrets about a refereeing decision that ruled out a strike by Edin Dzeko in its decisive 1-0 loss to Nigeria.

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