Iran and Nigeria played out a scoreless draw Monday in both teams' opening match at the FIFA World Cup at the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
Chances were scarce due in part to Iran's defensive discipline and Nigeria's inability to turn possession into goals. Both teams came close with headers, however, with Iran clearing a chance off their line in second-half stoppage time to preserve a point.
The draw was the first at this World Cup after the previous 12 matches each produced a winner.
While Iran will likely be happier with the result, both teams have work to do in Group F. Up next for Nigeria is a match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday in what could be a showdown for second place in the group. Bosnia-Herzegovina lost to Argentina on Sunday in the group opener.
Iran, meanwhile, will face group favourites Argentina the same day. Against Lionel Messi and company, Carlos Queiroz's side will almost certainly attempt similar tactics in search of another hard-fought result.
But as various commentators noted on Twitter, Monday's match was far from entertaining:
Neither team scored in a first half of few opportunities, and although Nigeria dominated possession, Iran had the best opportunity to take the lead before half-time. Ashkan Dejagah set up the chance, crossing to Reza Ghoochanneijhad in the 34th minute. The Charlton striker connected well with his close-range header, but Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama saved.
After a fruitless first half, Nigeria continued to dominate possession after the break. Shola Ameobi had a good chance to break the deadlock in the 71st minute, but his header from Peter Odemwingie's cross went just wide of the post.
Odemwingie then came close with a powerful volley in the 82nd minute, but his effort was off target—and the referee had already whistled for offside anyway.
The Super Eagles had one more good chance in stoppage time as Ameobi directed a powerful header on goal from a corner. But defender Mehrdad Pooladi headed off the line to preserve the draw for Iran.
|Iran Player Ratings|
|Amir Hossein Sadeghi||7||7|
|Ratings via B/R UK|
|Nigeria Player Ratings|
|John Obi Mikel||6||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi gave Iran credit for their defensive performance, telling FIFA.com:
We wanted to score in the first 20 minutes, but they defended in numbers and we couldn’t get through. When you get that type of situation, you can get wound up because you just want to score, and to do that you need to stay calm. You have to give Iran their due. They decided to play that way and their game-plan worked for them.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said his team's "spirit" made the difference, telling FIFA.com:
Nigeria’s big names tried to make the difference after the break and to take control of the game. That’s when we stepped our game up a level by doubling up a lot on their players. The fans didn’t see any goals but sometimes intensity, togetherness, focus and team spirit can make for an interesting spectacle.