Iran v Nigeria Preview

Group F | Monday 16 June | Arena da Baixada, Curitiba | 21:00




African champions Nigeria kick-start their 2014 World Cup against arguably one of the weaker opponents of the 32 nations. A slip up here could cost Nigeria a place in the knockout stages while Iran, under the guidance of the highly rated Carlos Queiroz, will be looking to use their low key status to their advantage.

To Win (90mins)
Iran 5/10
Draw 28/10
Nigeria 58/10

IRAN

Drawn into Group F along with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria, Iran’s path out of the first round is daunting, but the side will be eager to turn heads and carve out a legacy of success.

Iran might be heading to Brazil as Asia’s top ranked nation, but they are plagued by political and financial crises.

They have surprisingly been given a cold shoulder by the government and that makes them a side that is clearly underprepared for the mega event.

They should have played against good opposition ahead of the World Cup but their federation failed to organise that and they had to settle for lesser known opponents instead.

Coach Queiroz, who is leading Iran to their fourth World Cup, will be stepping down after the tournament having been placed under constant scrutiny over his tactics and team selection and has stated he cannot continue working under such conditions.

Iran did well in the Asian qualifiers but recent friendlies have raised concerns as to whether they stand any chance of matching Nigeria here.

They played four friendlies in May drawing with Belarus, Angola and Montenegro and losing to Guinea.

Queiroz has looked towards the Iranian diaspora and called-up players who were born or brought up outside the country to boost the teams quality.

The Persian stars are led by midfielder and captain Javad Nekounam, who is currently the country’s longest-serving player with 135 appearances over a 13-year stretch.

The deep lying play-maker became the first Iranian to play in La Liga when he joined Osasuna following the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Joining Nekounam in midfield will be Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah, who had a fine seasonfor the cottagers last term netting five goals in 20 league appearances for a Fulham side that struggled all season and was relegated from the Premier League.

Charlton Athletic forward Reza Ghoochannejhad will lead the attacking line having joined up with his birth nation in 2012.

He scored seven goals for the side in his first nine appearances and could be the key to Iran’s hopes of advancing past the group.

Central defender Jalal Hosseini will anchor a stout defence that excelled during qualifying. At 34 years old, Hosseini has 84 caps to his name and is also a significant threat in the attacking half on set-piece opportunities.

NIGERIA

The journey that led Nigeria to emerge as the African champions in 2013 was the type that could be referred to as locomotive, where they drew their first two games, and went on to win all four remaining matches to triumph in South Africa.

However, Nigeria will head to Brazil with every intent of making sure of a win against Iran knowing full well that three more points will be needed against Bosnia and Herzegovina before tackling a star studded Argentina side.

Nigeria topped Group F in the second round of CAF World Cup qualifying. They were unbeaten in their six games, with three wins and three draws, finishing five points ahead of second placed Malawi. In the final round of qualifying the Super Eagles beat Ethiopia both home and away to reach the finals.

The current squad doesn’t possess big names like they did for past World Cups, but they have a very united and compact group that Stephen Keshi has managed to put together.

They play as a unit and are not dependant on a single name or star as in the past. John Obi Mikel is a vital part of the Super Eagles game, using his vision and experience to full potential rather than holding back and playing only a defensive game as he does for Chelsea.

CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa is among Nigeria’s most dangerous players. The highly paced winger was a key member in the Russian Premier League last season where CSKA won the league and cup double.

On the goal scoring front Emanuel Emenike will be Nigeria’s most feared striker. In the latter stages of last year’s AFCON, the Super Eagles powered past Mali 4-1 in the semi-finals with him, then sorely missed the injured striker in a tense 1-0 win over Burkina Faso in the final.

The Fenerbahce forward continued his good form with crucial goals in Nigeria’s World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring twice in Ethiopia for a 2-1 win in the play-offs.

Betting PredictionNIGERIA 5/10
These sides have met once before in a friendly in 2008 with Nigeria getting a 1-0 win. Iran’s preparations for the tournament could have a negative effect on their confidence while Nigeria will head into this match full of confidence and should control proceedings. The bookies have priced up Nigeria at a decent 11/10 for the win and with two tougher matches to come, Keshi’s troops should claim maximum points here. 

Written by Wayde Dorkin for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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