In the second game of group F, Iran mark their return to the World Cup with a game against Nigeria in Curitiba on Monday night.
Carlos Queiroz has a wealth of managerial experience both at club and international level, taking charge of Real Madrid, South Africa and Portugal in the past, and he will undoubtedly use this experience in an attempt to defy the odds and take this Iranian side as far as they can go in the tournament.
Their opponents are familiar faces at the World Cup and will be hoping they can emulate the Nigerian sides of the ’90s and progress to the knockout stages of the competition. They will be looking to kick off their campaign with a win in order to have the best possible start in a group they share with Argentina for the fourth time.
Iran finished top of their group in the Asian qualifiers, defeating South Korea in the process, and will hope this will stand them in good stead for the World Cup.
Nigeria come into the competition as the current African Cup of Nations champions and will certainly be no easy picking for any team they face.
Iran only have two injuries to Hashem Beykzadeh and Sardar Azmoun. Otherwise, Queiroz has a fully fit squad to choose from.
It remains to be seen whether Ahmed Musa will be able to play for Nigeria as he has a thigh injury. The same goes for Kenneth Omeruo who has an ankle injury. However, Juwon Oshinawa may be able to play if he can recover from a bug in time for the game.
- Iran has only ever played Nigeria once before and lost the game 1-0.
- They only managed to win just one of their warm up matches – a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
- Nigeria are in the same group as Argentina for the fourth time.
- Five members of the Nigerian side currently ply their trade in English football, including Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses who spent the season on loan at Liverpool.
Iran – Ashkan Dejagah
Despite suffering relegation from the Premier League with Fulham, Dejagah was one of their best players this season. He managed to score five goals from midfield and create two assists in 19 league appearances. According to whoscored.com he also finished the season with an 80% pass success rate and won half of his duels. Squawka.com add that he made no defensive mistakes in any of his appearances. If Dejagah can repeat this kind of form for Iran at the World Cup, then he will be a worrying prospect for any team they face during the course of the tournament.
Nigeria – Victor Moses
As mentioned before, Moses spent the season on loan at Liverpool and didn’t make a major impact in the league. However, he has always been one of Nigeria’s key players throughout the African Cup of Nations and in their World Cup warm up matches, particularly after he came on as a substitute against Scotland. He made 19 appearances for the Reds in the league but only started in six of those. He did at least manage to score one goal in the process. According to Squawka, he finished the season with an 87% passing accuracy but only managed to win 40% of his duels. However, Moses will hope that his experience of playing in the physically challenging Premier League will help him against the Iranians.
If you believed the coverage that has been in seen in some quarters for this game, then you’d expect Nigeria to run riot. I don’t think Iran will make it that easy for them but I still expect Nigeria to win 2-1.