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Wednesday's Winners & Losers
by Paul Kennedy, June 26th, 2014 4:20AM

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TAGS:  argentina, france, honduras, lionel messi, nigeria, world cup 2014

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[BRAZIL 2014] Lionel Messi moved into a tie with Neymar for the scoring lead at the World Cup. France and Switzerland, led by diminutive Xherdan Shaqiri, and Nigeria joined Argentina in the final 16. The big loser was Honduras, whose third loss in three games will drop it to 31st (out of 32 teams) in the final standings.

Winners ...

LIONEL MESSI. Can Leo carry Argentina all the way to the World Cup title in a manner of Diego Maradona in 1986? So far, the evidence is yes. Messi scored two goals to lead Argentina to a 3-2 win over Nigeria that moved it into the round of 16 as the Group F champion with three wins in three games.

NIGERIA. The three goals the Super Eagles gave up to Argentina were the first three they've conceded at the World Cup. They got lucky in their second game as Edin Dzeko had a valid goal for Bosnia-Herzegovina disallowed for an incorrect offside call. That proved to be the difference as they became the first African team at the 2014 World Cup to advance. Nigeria also advanced for the first time since 1998 when Bora Milutinovic took them to the round of 16 as a group winner.

FRANCE. The Bleus had to settle for a 0-0 tie with Ecuador, but it was good enough to ease into the second round as the Group E winner. That marked the first time France has won its group since 1998 when it won its only World Cup title.

XHERDAN SHAQIRI. The 5-foot-6 Shaqiri became the second player at the 2014 World Cup after his Bayern Munich teammate Thomas Mueller to score a hat trick, scoring all three goals in Switzerland's 3-0 win over Honduras that moved the Nati into the second round against Argentina. Born in Kosovo to parents of Albanian descent, Shaqiri now has two Man of the Match awards. He was also selected as the top player in Switzerland's 2-1 win over Ecuador.

SWITZERLAND. The Swiss took a lot of heat for their top eight seeding, and their 5-2 loss to France did nothing to quash the criticism. But the Nati is at least going through to the second round -- against Argentina -- which is better than two other seeds, defending champion Spain and Italy, did. And let's not forget Switzerland has outscored the two Euro 2012 finalists combined.

Losers ...

ECUADOR. Five of six South American teams -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay -- are going through to the round of 16. Only Ecuador is going home. The goal it conceded in the last minute of stoppage time of the 2-1 loss to Switzerland -- the latest goal ever scored in the group stage until Silvestre Varela's goal against the USA -- will haunt it for a long time. Otherwise, it would have edged the Swiss for second place behind France.

ASIA. Iran's 3-1 loss to Bosnia-Herzegovina continued the futility of Asian teams at the 2014 World Cup. If South Korea doesn't beat Belgium on Thursday, the four Asian representatives will go home without a win.

Asian Records:
YEAR W-T-L
1998
1-2-9
2002 5-3-9
2006 1-4-7
2010 4-3-7
2014 0-3-8

CATRACHOS. Honduras has now played in three World Cups and still not won a game. No one else has played more games without a win. The most disappointing part is that the Catrachos are going backwards: they at least earned two ties in 1982 and one tie in 2010. This time, their three losses will leave them 31st and out of 32 teams in the final standings ahead of only Cameroon.

Final Standings:
32. Cameroon
31. Honduras
30. Australia
...


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