A pillow and mat would have come in handy as it was snooze time at the Arena de Baixada during Monday night’s listless draw between Nigeria and Iran.
It was the first drawn match of the 2014 World Cup; it was also the first drab match.
The Super Eagles were expected to cruise past Carlos Quieroz’s side, and win their first World Cup game in nine matches. For a large part of the game, the Eagles threatened to do just that; but every time, their passes were wayward and the shots on goal lacked bite.
Iran will be more than happy with a point, even though they will struggle to record another shutout against Argentina in Belo Horizonte at the weekend. For Nigeria, however, the pressure is definitely on and they will need the maximum points against Bosnia on Saturday to have any realistic chance of making the second round.
It had to end sometime. The steady stream of goals and entertaining football in Brazil was always going to run dry at some point, and no one will be particularly surprised that it happened in Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada between these two nations on Monday night.
The first draw of the World Cup – and a goalless one at that – leaves Bosnia and Herzegovina favourites to qualify from Group F behind Argentina if they can avoid defeat to Nigeria in Cuiaba on Saturday.
The reigning African champions knew that this was arguably their best chance of a first World Cup win in nine attempts going back to 1998 when Iran also celebrated their solitary victory over the USA, but Stephen Keshi’s side were desperately disappointing – Daily Mail.
It may not have been the most exciting match at the World Cup, but it was enjoyed by millions of viewers even if the vast majority of them were in Argentina and Bosnia. The group leaders must have sat back in satisfaction as the action, such as it was, unfolded; though there will be a new found respect for the defensive discipline of Iran. The game confirmed that Team Melli are no walkovers, but they are going to struggle to score and Nigeria are not about to give anyone nightmares either.
Even the clairvoyant Pele could predict first place for Argentina in this group, but second place is wide open. There’s not much to choose between the three teams hoping to join Messi et al. in the last 16. Bosnia may have lost the opening game against the South Americans but will fancy their chances against a far-from-impressive Super Eagles in the next match knowing that a win will likely put them in the driver’s seat, or at least the passenger seat, heading into the final game with Iran – ESPNFC.
Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria turned in a lacklustre performance and were held to a goalless draw by Iran in easily the most boring match so far in Brazil and the tournament’s first stalemate.
Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz’s well-drilled Iranian team certainly deserved a share of the spoils after a disciplined display in which they frustrated the uninspired, misfiring African champions.
There was nothing super about the Super Eagles, who were gunning to open their campaign with a win in order to get a head start in the race for second place in the group, with Argentina overwhelming favourites to qualify on top.
The pattern of play was utterly predictable. Iran, a team whose tireless work ethic makes up for their technical limitations, parked the bus and were content to sit back and close down space, with every player putting in a defensive shift.
Nigeria had the initiative and the bulk of possession, but that was about it. John Obi Mikel pulled the strings alongside Ramon Azeez, but neither could provide any spark, while Ahmed Musa and Victor Muses were unable to use their pace effectively and Emmanuel Emenike cut a highly isolated figure up front – MARCA.com.
All three areas of the outfield—defence, midfield and attack—look in bad shape, but it may prove to be the defence that is the greatest concern. At the back, Keshi is paying the price for not assessing a wider variety of options over the last 18 months. Left-back Elderson Echiejile was ruled out ahead of the tournament, while stalwart centre-back Godfrey Oboabona was removed due to an injury partway through the first half against Iran.
In their place, Keshi will likely need to field the unconvincing Juwon Oshaniwa and the ageing Joseph Yobo. The latter was exposed badly by Jozy Altidore in the pre-match friendly against the United States, while, tellingly, neither man played for the Super Eagles between February 2013 and May 2014.
Heading into battles against the menacing threats of Bosnia (complete with Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Roma playmaker Miralem Pjanic) and Argentina (Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero), Nigeria have a defence lacking the understanding and experience of playing together and developing as a unit.This while established players such as Taye Taiwo have been entirely ignored by Keshi – bleacherreport.com.
This is the game they should have wanted to go out and win and you would think there would be more urgency in their play – Rio Ferdinand.
Match stats and facts
June 16, 2014
Iran 0 – 0 Nigeria
Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Referee: Carlos Vera (Ecuador)
Ball possession: 37% Iran – 63% Nigeria
Man of the Match: John Obi Mikel (Nigeria)
Man off the Match: A contest between Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa
Iran: Alireza Haghighi, Montazeri, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Pouladi, Teymourian, Nekounam, Heydari (Shojaei 89), Dejagah (Jahanbakhsh 78), Hajsafi, Ghoochannejhad.
Subs: Ahmadi, Reza Haghighi, Ansarifard, Hadadifar, Mahini, Alnameh, Rahmani, Beikzadeh, Beitashour, Davari.
Nigeria: Enyeama, Ambrose, Oboabona (Yobo 30), Omeruo, Oshaniwa, Onazi, Mikel, Moses (Ameobi 52), Musa, Azeez (Odemwingie 69), Emenike.
Subs: Ejide, Uzoenyi, Gabriel, Egwuekwe, Odunlami, Babatunde, Nwofor, Uchebo, Agbim.
This was Nigeria’s second World Cup goalless draw in their 15th match – the other being against England in 2002.
Iran had one effort on target, the joint-fewest by a team in a game in this tournament, along with Honduras and Cameroon.
Only two teams have failed to score against Nigeria in the Super Eagles’ last nine World Cup games: England and Iran.