The FIFA World Cup 2014 is well and truly underway, so we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
Next up is Iran vs. Nigeria, two of the lesser-known teams in the competition, so how will this one play out?
How Iran Will Shape Up
Carlos Queiroz's defensive mantra has finally found a match at national level; where Portugal 2010 failed, Iran 2014 has a much higher chance of succeeding—relative to expectation, of course.
The Persian Stars play careful, negative football focused on defensive solidity and sharp counter-attacks. They keep a flat back four off the ball to close off space to wingers, sit deep as a line and swap the middle of the field.
They allow opposing centre-backs and holding midfielders to have the ball but press relentlessly once it enters their half. They're good in the air and quick to slide across, but offensively, the team stand very limited.
The plan, really, is to give it to Javad Nekounam and hope he can play a runner in with a long pass.
How Nigeria Will Shape Up
Nigeria conducted some odd experiments during the pre-tournament friendlies, and fans are simply hoping normal service will resume when they begin group play.
Stephen Keshi's 2013 Africa Cup of Nations-winning team will likely field a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the squad chemistry only interrupted by late arrivals to the squad and an injury to Elderson Echiejile at left-back.
John Obi Mikel will carry the torch as a more attack-minded midfielder, and his performances for the Super Eagles belie those for Chelsea. The defence is young and promising, as is the attack, and Ogenyi Onazi plays an important role stitching it all together in midfield.
They'll see a lot of the ball and take risks in trying to score.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Peter Odemwingie
Peter Odemwingie looks likely to complete a remarkable U-turn on Monday, going from unfancied option to starter in the Nigeria setup in the space of a year.
The Nigerian Football Association had their hand in it, but the fact is he stands just the sort of player who can unlock a deep defence like Iran's. His ability to receive the ball between the lines and turn on it in motion can inject a side with attacking impetus; his long shot is lethal from 30 yards or closer.
Of all players in the side—perhaps barring Victor Moses—Odemwingie is the one with the keys to the game.
2. Midfield Runners
Nigeria will commit men to attack as Iran sit off, with the Persian Stars probably the deepest-set side in the tournament.
They draw you in, make you feel like you can leave just one or two at the back to cover, then hit an athletic runner in space and cause some serious damage.
Ashkan Dejagah, Masoud Shojaei and Reza Ghoochannejhad are all threats on the counter-attack; how many will Keshi leave in defence to watch over?
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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