Today saw plenty of World Cup drama as extinguishing flames of hope were relit in a spectacular day of action.
Brazil and Switzerland knew that defeats here would place them under enormous pressure going into the final round of group games, whilst Argentina needed Nigeria to do a job in order to take Group D qualification to the wire.
Group E Thrills
Brazil commenced the day needing a win over Costa Rica and boy did they need to work for that 2-0 win.
A scrappy first half saw both sides have chances with Brazil going closest in 34th minute, when a Phillipe Coutinho cross found Willian who then curled just wide.
The second half saw much of same with a controversial moment coming in 78th minute, after Goncalo Gonzalez seemingly fouled Neymar in box to hand Brazil a penalty.
Referee, Bjorn Kuipers then consulted VAR admist concern over whether Neymar dived and overturned his penalty decision.
Brazil then soon got justice when Roberto Firmino played a lay-off to an incoming Coutinho, and the Barcelona man lashed it into the net to give Brazil what seemed to be a late winner in first minute of injury time.
Six minutes later, Douglas Costa crossed to Neymar, who tapped home the delivery to send Costa Rica crashing out and keep Brazil’s hopes alive.
Group E’s other match saw Switzerland beat Serbia 2-1 to leave the two qualification spots still in the balance.
Serbia had taken the lead through an Aleksandar Mitrovic header and dominated the first half.
Switzerland then struck back shortly after the break when they attacked and Xherdan Shaqiri rifled home a deflection from edge of box.
Both sides then had chances to win the match and the Swiss took their chance in 90th minute, when a through ball found Shaqiri who then ran up the pitch and tucked home past a desperate Zoran Tosic and out-coming Vladmir Stojkovic.
The results leave Brazil and Switzerland tied on four points with the South-American side top on goal difference by a single goal.
In Wednesday’s final group games, Switzerland will meet Costa Rica whilst it’s a straight shootout between Brazil and Serbia for other qualification spot.
Brazil will progress with a draw whilst Serbia must win to be sure otherwise a draw will see them needing Costa Rica to see off the Swiss.
Nigeria keeps Argentina alive
Argentina will be thanking their lucky stars that Nigeria stunned Iceland with a double from Ahmed Musa in a 2-0 win.
Iceland dominated first half but it was Nigeria who turned the screw after half-time, when they broke and a Victor Moses cross found Musa who flicked it up before volleying home from close range.
Not content with settling for a single goal victory, Nigeria then relentlessly tested Iceland’s defence and were rewarded in 75th minute.
A cross from down left found Musa who rounded Kari Arnason and Hannes Halldorsson to slot it high into the net.
Minutes later, Tyronne Ebuehi fouled Alfred Finnbogason and referee, Matthew COnger consulted VAR before rewarding a penalty.
Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up and blasted the penalty over bar, handing Nigeria a comfortable 2-0 win.
The result means that Group D’s final round of games are massive with both qualification spots still not secure.
Croatia might be through but a Nigeria win over Argentina coupled with defeat to Iceland by a fair margin, could see the African side go through as group winners.
Realistically, a win for Nigeria will send them through but a draw and Icelandic win will send it down to goal difference. Same situation will occur if Argentina and Iceland both win as both will be level on four points.