Group F Preview – Nigeria Not At The Races
World Cup 2014
An intriguing group but surely the fight is for second place with Argentina and Messi in company?
Argentina arrive in Brazil this summer with high expectations of winning the World Cup in their neighbour’s back yard. Drawn in a group alongside African Nations Cup holders Nigeria, Iran and World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alejandro Sabella’s side are expected to progress to the knockout stages with ease. But who will join them?
Argentina impressed in qualification as they topped the CONEMBOL group losing just two games, with one of those defeats coming in the final game of qualification once their place in Brazil was long since confirmed.
Lionel Messi was the second highest scorer of the nine nations with 10 goals, one fewer than Luis Suarez and one more than fellow countryman Gonzalo Higuain.
The Barcelona forward has been accused of underperforming for his country on the grandest of stages but arrives in Brazil this summer the same age (26) as Diego Maradona was when he led La Albiceleste to the 1986 trophy.
Could this be the tournament where the little number 10 ends any debate and cements his position as the greatest of all time?
Bosnia & Herzegovina booked their place at Brazil 2014 thanks to an emphatically superior goal difference to Greece who also managed to notch 25 points from 10 qualifying matches thanks to eight wins and one draw.
Manchester City’s Edin Džeko scored 10 and Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibišević got eight as the Dragons scored 34 goals and conceded just six to make it a +24 goal difference compared to Greece’s +8.
Asia’s number one ranked side Iran progressed to just heir fourth finals by topping AFC Group A ahead of South Korea, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Lebanon.
Carlos Queiroz has commented that he hopes to make his side hard to beat, but progression past the group stages is an unlikely pipe dream.
African champions Nigeria complete Group F. The Super Eagles have become a familiar participant at World Cups over the past two decades, but arrive in Brazil with few, if any, star names and perhaps at their weakest for many a year.
Their progression from the African qualification process was uninspiring,
while the 2013 Africa Nations Cup triumph was something of anomaly as only the shock quarter-final win over Ivory Coast was a notable result.
Defeats to Uruguay and Spain, and conceding against Tahiti at the 2013 Confederations Cup exposed their weakness.
Group F Winner
Bosnia & Herzegovina (5/1) could put up a stern fight in the group opener, but Argentina should cruise this group and at odds of 2/9 are duly priced to do so.
Group F Qualification
I expect that Bosnia & Herzegovina will ultimately take second spot in the group and qualify at odds of 8/11. But it may pay to wait until after their opener against Argentina before you back them to do so as an expected defeat could see them move to odds-against prices in this market.
Iran are priced at odds of 2/5 to finish bottom of the group, but could cause an upset against Nigeria who look a better bet for the wooden spoon at odds of 3/1.