With Argentina looking like running away with Group F in the 2014 World Cup, the race for knockout-stage progression below them is set to be fierce.
Alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria will battle it out for the group’s runners-up spot, and the latter pair meet in Curitiba on Monday as both sides look to seize the initiative.
We’ve seen some quite remarkable scalps in this World Cup so far, and although Iran are the minnows of the group, Nigeria must remain focused to avoid another shock result.
Venue: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Date: Monday 16 June
Time: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC One/ESPN
Super Eagles Hoping to Fly
Nigeria are a bit of an enigma when it comes to the World Cup—you just don’t know what to expect from them.
They’ve played in five of the past six World Cups and reached the second round in both the 1994 and 1998 tournaments, but they have failed to make their mark on the big stage since then.
In both the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, the Super Eagles didn’t register a single victory, but they’re hoping that that record is about to change against the Iranians.
The team have just landed in Curitiba #GoSuperEagles— Nigeria Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) June 14, 2014
Iran, ranked 43rd in the FIFA World Rankings, are a football nation that are very much developing, although they’re unlikely to have an impact in Group F this summer.
Similar to Nigeria, Iran haven’t won a World Cup fixture since the 1998 tournament, as Negar Mortazavi revealed, their one and only finals victory in their history:
Their recent record is promising, though, losing just one of their last 12 matches, according to SoccerWay. However, they’ve been heavy favourites for every clash and played against sides for which World Cup qualification is a distant dream.
On Monday, though, Carlos Queiroz’s side will likely have their backs against the wall for the duration, as Nigeria look to get their campaign off to a flyer.
They appear in the mood to go for it, as well, with midfielder John Obi Mikel insisting that the Africa Cup of Nations champions are in Brazil to win—per FIFA.com:
This is my first World Cup. I want to make sure we achieve something coming here. We don't just want to come and make up the numbers, we want to do well. I have to make sure I lead by example. We are all driving in the same direction. We all know what we want and hopefully we will have a good tournament.
Having a good tournament means kicking off with a victory against Iran, and manager Stephen Keshi certainly has the personnel at his disposal to do just that.
With the likes of Mikel, Victor Moses, Efe Ambrose and Emmanuel Emenike set to line up in the famous green shirt on Monday, it’s difficult to see anything other than a Super Eagles victory.
Not that we needed reminding, but if World Cup 2014 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted in football.
The Super Eagles come into the tournament with the tag of African champions resting heavily on their shoulders, but with their star-studded squad and team cohesion, they should be able to live up to their billing on Monday.
Prediction: Iran 0-2 Nigeria