What Iran Learned from Their World Cup 2014 Clash with Argentina
A moment of brilliance from Lionel Messi settled an intense affair between Iran and Argentina, giving the South American side a narrow 1-0 victory.
Messi's stoppage time strike gave the three points to an unconvincing Argentina, who couldn't breach a resolute Iranian wall.
Carlos Queiroz's tactics frustrated Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, along with Argentina's midfield and full-backs, who had issues finishing some decent chances.
Iran also showed some attacking nous in the second half, with their two best chances coming off headers by Ashkan Dejagah and Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Here are five things we learned from today's match.
Iran's Defense Remains Well-Organized and Disciplined
Center-backs Jalal Hosseini and Amirhossein Sadeghi were resolute in defense, while Mehrdad Pooladi, Ehsan Hajsafi and Pejman Montazeri were impressive as well.
While it can be argued Iran defended with 10 men behind the ball at all times, the positioning and organization of the defensive line was impressive and deserves plaudits.
Against a player of Messi's caliber, it is extremely important to force him to drop deep to receive possession of the ball, and Iran succeeded in doing this for large stretches.
Of course, it was a moment of individual brilliance from Messi that settled the game, but Iran should be proud of the way they limited his influence from open play.
Higuain and Aguero were largely anonymous throughout, with the exception of an early Aguero shot that goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi did well to parry.
Against arguably the most talented attacking line of any team at the World Cup, Iran did well, and they owe much of that to their ability to stay disciplined and carry out their defensive game plan.
Ashkan Dejagah Is Iran's Biggest Threat
Dejagah was immense in the second half, often providing a link between defense and attack for Iran with some mazy runs and movement up top.
Along with Ghoochannejhad, Dejagah very nearly put Iran ahead with an excellent header, and he had a legitimate shout for a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Pablo Zabaleta.
While he may feel hard done by some of the referee's decisions, he nevertheless seemed to exhibit more desire than his markers in Argentina's back-line.
Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay seemed surprised when Iran was attacking with intent, and Dejagah very nearly made them pay with his header in the second half, in which he simply outran and out-jumped his marker.
Regardless of the progress shown, however, he will be relied upon to contribute against Bosnia, where nothing less than victory will do for Team Melli.
Alireza Haghighi Has a Bright Future in Goal
The Rubin Kazan-owned player, who spent last season in Portugal with Sporting Covilha, has acquitted himself well during the World Cup.
A solid performance against Nigeria was a warm-up against a far more potent Argentina attack, and he was again very steady.
A couple of good saves against Aguero in the first half and Angel Di Maria in the second, along with a commanding presence on set pieces contributed greatly to Iran's stifling of Argentina.
Given his experience in Europe, it is a good bet that Haghighi will continue to man the goalposts for Iran in the post-Queiroz era.
Iran's Second-Half Performance Provided a Blueprint Against Bosnia
The first half of the match saw Argentina hold the ball almost exclusively in Iran's half, and while not much was created in terms of legitimate scoring opportunities, Iran barely even had a sniff of Argentina's goal.
Iran's best chance in the first half came, predictably, off a corner. Hosseini rose highest to meet Dejagah's ball but couldn't put it on target.
The second half saw Iran control the ball for longer stretches of time and create more chances from open play.
Indeed, they were unlucky not to grab a goal and were unfortunate not to be given a penalty kick on Zabaleta's challenge.
Despite Messi's late goal, the second half performance proved that Iran can get a goal with a little more clinical finishing, and they can create chances against a similarly attack-minded Bosnia side.
Queiroz will likely once again enforce a defense-oriented approach, with the idea of scoring a goal on the counter. Today's performance may give him more confidence to loosen the reigns on Javad Nekounam and the wingers and allow them to push forward.
Iran Must Defeat Bosnia to Progress to the Knockout Stages
Regardless of the result of tonight's Bosnia-Nigeria clash, Iran now enter their final match against the Bosnians knowing only victory will take them through to the Round of 16.
The likely opponent for the second-place finisher in Group F will be France, who will be an extremely difficult test. At this point, one of Iran or Bosnia would seem the most likely to progress.
Nigeria will have to defeat Bosnia to have a real shout, as they go up against the Argentines on the final match day.
Iran, with their defensive approach, must not fall behind against the Bosnians, as scoring even twice may be difficult for this side.
If they are to win, it will likely have to be a 1-0 result.
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