The fourth day of the 2014 World Cup saw Ai??the debut of this generation’s greatest player and the tournament’s most hyped superstar Lionel Messi, as well an expectedly easy France win over Honduras and a perhaps surprisingly entertaining contest between Switzerland and Ecuador, which was only decided in the very last minute. Below are things we have learned from these matches:

Lionel Messi can live up to the hype

Every world class player is expected to deliver in the World Cup, but with Messi the expectations are even higher than usual because of the almost surreal standards he has set over the years. This is the second World Cup where there’s build-up/anticipation around whether or not Messi can match his club exploits in the biggest international event of all. In 2010, the answer was clearly negative – Messi didn’t play a bad tournament by normal standards, but a forgettable one for his standards and he ended up being a non-factor in Argentina’s crushing 4-0 loss to Germany in the quarterfinals.

In 2014 it might be a different story though; it was far from a vintage Messi performance against Bosnia, but he scored a fantastic trademark goal to ensure Argentina’s win and give him a very important confidence boost. It’s obviously still too early to say if this will be Messi’s World Cup or not, but so far the signs look good and his goal certainly gives hope. It will, however, be in the knockout stages that Messi’s tournament will truly be judged.

Argentina are vulnerable

While they may boast of the tournament’s best player, Argentina didn’t look particularly convincing as a team. Their 2-1 win over Bosnia was reliant on a lucky own goal early on and a moment of brilliance from Messi; apart from that, the football was far from inspiring going forward and the defense looked shaky every time they were under some pressure. Argentina’s individual talent will surely be enough to make it past the group stages with minimal fuss, but their World Cup might well end up in a 2010-like humbling at the hands of another title contender if they don’t pick up their game significantly.

The team improved significantly after Gago was introduced in the second half, as well as Higuain, something Sabella will surely look to build on in the remaining group matches.

France might be a serious factor in this World Cup

Sure, it was only Honduras, but still France looked better than they have in a big tournament for a long time. Benzema showed great form and bagged a brace, but it wasn’t just about him; the team’s midfield with Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye looked solid as a rock. It remains to be seen whether these positive signs will be confirmed, but France looked like a potential dark horse in this World Cup; they have a talented squad from top to bottom and they seem to be in perfect sync with each other. Winning their group will surely be a priority in order to avoid a clash of titans against Argentina as early as the last 16.

Switzerland are unlikely to break through

Yes, they did manage to beat Ecuador in the last minute – a win that might very well put him in the last 16 of this World Cup – but it was hardly a performance that suggested Switzerland can finally have a major breakthrough run at a big event. They have looked a lot like they have in other recent big events: solid enough but lacking that extra gear/edge to really contend. Unless Ottmar Hitzfeld can work some magic really quickly, Switzerland are probably looking at another last 16 exit.

Ecuador will definitely feel hard done by the result as they were in no way inferior during the 90 minutes and had a golden chance to score a winner of their own seconds before Switzerland scored theirs. As it stands now, that goal will likely end up being the difference between Switzerland and Ecuador in the end bar any upsets – which are possible – in the remaining group games.

Goal-line technology has been long overdue

The France vs Honduras match saw the first World Cup ever to be validated through goal-line technology; it was simple, accurate and avoided the controversy that would have inevitably been created otherwise had Benzema’s goal not stood. It is clear that technology is the way forward and its use in football should only increase.

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