Iran v Nigeria – Princes Of Persia?
Iran v Nigeria
The World Cup Group F match between Iran and Nigeria could be vital in deciding the runner’s up spot in this particular group. Here’s my best bets.
Iran were impressive in AFC qualification as they topped Group A with five wins and one draw from their eight games played, beating South Korea twice in crunch matches both home and away.
They kept six clean sheets in those eight matches and conceded just twice and manager Carlos Queiroz has been working with the majority of his squad since April; so we can be sure that they will be well-drilled.
A lack of friendly fixtures has been a cause for concern for the former Manchester United assistant, who has voiced his distress about the matter in the media. But they have prepared well for Brazil 2014 and are unbeaten in their three warm-up fixtures against Montenegro (0-0), Angola (1-1) and Trinidad (2-0). They arrive with low expectations, already celebrating the fact that they have qualified for the tournament, but should not be underestimated and could cause an upset or two.
Nigeria’s qualification came via a solid 4-1 aggregate win over an average Ethiopia side in the CAF play-offs. Their performances in the group stages of the process were, however, less than impressive and included draws against Kenya, Namibia and Malawi.
They’ve also looked poor in their warm-up matches for the World Cup, most recently losing 2-1 to USA. Previously they struggled to put anything cohesive together against Scotland in a fortunate 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage and were also held to a goalless draw by Mexico.
Defender Hashem Beikzadeh has been include in the Iran squad after overcoming a calf injury, but there was no place for Mohammadreza Khalatbari, who was a regular during qualifying, or Rubin Kazan’s 19-year-old forward Sardar Azmoun.
Nigeria defender Elderson Echiejile was ruled out of the World Cup following an injury picked up in the friendly with Greece and has been replace in the squad by Ejike Uzoenyi. Peter Odemwingie is back amid the ranks having reconciled his differences with manager Stephen Keshi.
Head to Head
The two nations have met only once previously on a football pitch, with the Africans coming out on top 1-0 way back in January 1998.
As big priced 11/4 outsiders here Iran are seriously underestimated against an extremely poor Nigeria side. Queiroz’s men are expected to be the whipping boys of Group F but will go into their games extremely well organised and can certainly ruffle a few feathers, while Nigeria looked particularly poor in their warm-up match against Scotland.
Those six clean sheets in qualification evidenced Iran’s watertight defence, making odds of 7/2 on Iran to win with a clean sheet also appealing. The 1-0 scoreline can be backed at 6/1 and Under 1.5 goals is 6/4; both of which look to be good bets.