The Super Eagles of Nigeria kickoff their World Cup 2014 campaign today with a match with Iran at the Arena da Baixada and are hoping to win their first World Cup match since France 1998.
With group favourites Argentina beating Bosnia 2-1 yesterday, Nigeria, who are expected to compete with tournament newcomers Bosnia and today’s opponent, Iran for the second spot, need a win in this game for a start.
In our usual style, our team of analysts comprising Bless Ekene, Sunday Omeike, and Adegoke Adelabu bare their minds on this must-win match for the Super Eagles.
Stephen Keshi favours a 4-3-3 formation but with the absence of Elderson Echiejile in defence and the back-up, Juwon Oshaniwa not someone that inspires much confidence, don’t you think he should discard this set-up and fashion out a winning formula from the players at his disposal, instead of religiously clinging to 4-3-3 and playing Juwon against Iran?
SO: The injury to Echiejile changes little or nothing about this team based on the players the “Big Boss” has chosen to execute the tournament with. Keshi is a staunch believer in his patient 4-3-3 formation and if this doesn’t work out well, an extra striker and two central midfielders and wingers in a 4-4-2 would be reverted to. Having said that, Oshaniwa is a good team player, although not spectacular, and the main burden he can place on the team is the centre back playing beside him needing to do the work of two men in the case where he fails in his positional sense.
On the other hand, I think the team can still be shuffled to play a 3-4-3 formation, with Efe Ambrose coming back to his original central role and an extra defence-minded midfielder replacing Oshaniwa. With little or no time to perfect such a tedious tactic, I would rather forge ahead with my original formation while psyching the players to help the rookie defender out whenever possible.
AA: Professionally, we should not be talking about which system may favour the Super Eagles or which player should play what position. How we got to where we are today cannot be explained from these two important points of views. I perceive that Stephen Keshi has lost the normal anxiety that a coach needs to perform, because he has secured his appointment by inviting Joseph Yobo and Osaze Odemwingie in order to please the NFF.
The game will be difficult for Iran because they have to keep guessing about what we can do; whereas we have no game plan.
I listened to many analyses during our match against USA and I was shocked that none of those analysts mentioned anything about the tactical characters of the Eagles. The danger in our selection is that our “best” players are soloists – they carry the ball too much until they isolate themselves. I was shocked that no player on that pitch understood how Victor Moses plays. This guy is always going to the touch line and several times when he ran into trouble there was no depth provided for him!!! He, Emenike, Amoebi, Ozaze spend too much energy on the ball that when they lose the ball they do not have sufficient energy to run back, thereby putting pressure on the midfield.
Throughout the game, there were no distinctive set piece executed by the Eagles. What then do they have in common? USA caused our defence to keep running into our goal area at every attack, whereas in every attack we allowed them to recover before we released the ball.
The USA players attacked us in triangular form and they varied their points of attack based on numerical advantage. The USA players maintained what is called perceived assertion strategy, which is that they maintained constant pace in the way they attacked. No player was carrying the ball unnecessarily, so they were not tired.
There is nothing special in the abilities of our players so anyone can be fielded. But I will prefer 4-4-2 so that we consistently put our forward in attacking mode, it will be difficult for the Iranians to come out of their defence. We are dangerous as individual players, but my prayer is that our strikers should not get tired or injured for lack of coordination.
SO: Not much is known about the playing style of this Asian minnows but the key factor in their play is their Portuguese coach, Carlos Quiroz. The former Real Madrid coach is one who adjusts to the kind of personnel he has at his disposal. With this in mind and knowing the fact that the Super Eagles are not a team who takes the fight to their opponents from the get-go, I think a dour atmosphere would be created to ensure the game goes on without much activity and the first step is to pack the midfield. He would then rely on Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah – a man known for producing sensational strikes from nothing — and captain Javad Nekounam to produce one or two moments of magic which could see the war-torn nation claim at least a point from the encounter.
Which players are you looking forward to see and why?
SO: I’d like to see my ‘Fantastic Four’: Vincent Enyeama, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike show up for the occasion. The World Cup is where you tell the world your status and it can also get you a bigger club than the one you are currently with.
Enyeama to organize the defence, Mikel to orchestrate the midfield, Moses to run the full backs ragged with his direct dribbling runs, and Emenike to bulldoze his way through the middle and hammer one or two ferocious shots into the back of the net. Also, Oboabona’s continued growth as a rock in defence would be appreciated, as he needs an assured tournament to get a chance at a bigger club next season.
BE: For me, I’m not looking at a particular player but the team. I quite agree a player can singlehandedly win a game for his team but do we really have someone like that in our ranks? I’m looking forward to seeing the players excel as a team because with that it will be difficult for the opponent to conquer them. They can easily take out a player but not the team.
What’s your prediction?
SO: A 3-0 scoreline would boost our morale going into the all-important game against Bosnia-Herzegovinia. Emenike and Moses to tame the Iranian Lions with goals.
BE: Eagles will win 3-0.
28/01/98 Nigeria v Iran 1-0 (Carlsberg Cup)
FIFA Ranking (June 5, 2014)
Iran: Rank: 43 Points: 641
Nigeria: Rank: 44 Points: 640
World Cup 2014 Qualifying
First in AFC Group A with 16 points (P8 W5 D1 L2 GF8 GA2)
First in CAF Group F with 12 points (P6 W3 D3 L0 GF7 GA3)
Play-off v Ethiopia (First in CAF Group B): Ethiopia 1 – 2 Nigeria, Nigeria 2 – 0 Ethiopia
Last 10 Matches
18/06/13 Korea Republic 0 – 1 Iran (World Cup Qualification AFC)
15/10/13 Iran 2 – 1 Thailand (Asian Cup Qualification)
15/11/13 Thailand 0 – 3 Iran (Asian Cup Qualification)
19/11/13 Lebanon 1 – 4 Iran (Asian Cup Qualification)
03/03/14 Iran 3 – 2 Kuwait (Asian Cup Qualification)
05/03/14 Iran 1 – 2 Guinea (International)
18/05/14 Iran 0 – 0 Belarus (International)
26/05/14 Montenegro 0 – 0 Iran (International)
30/05/14 Iran 1 – 1 Angola (International)
08/06/14 Trinidad and Tobago 0 – 2 Iran (International)
Goals for: 17 Goals against: 7
11/01/14 Mali 2 – 1 Nigeria 5 (African Nations Championship)
15/01/14 Nigeria 4 – 2 Mozambique (African Nations Championship)
19/01/14 Nigeria 3 – 1 South Africa (African Nations Championship)
25/01/14 Nigeria 4 – 3 Morocco (African Nations Championship)
29/01/14 Nigeria 0 – 0 Ghana (African Nations Championship)
01/02/14 Zimbabwe 0 – 1 Nigeria (African Nations Championship)
06/03/14 Mexico 0 – 0 Nigeria (International)
28/05/14 Nigeria 2 – 2 Scotland (International)
04/06/14 Greece 0 – 0 Nigeria (International)
07/06/14 United States 2 – 1 Nigeria (International)
Goals for: 16 Goals against: 12
Iran have won only one of their last nine games at the World Cup — against USA in 1998 (2-1).
Carlos Queiroz’s side have never kept a clean sheet in a World Cup game.
Nigeria are winless in their last eight World Cup games (D2 L6). It’s the longest-running drought among the 32 teams taking part in 2014.
No team scored more goals than Iran in the 2014 Asian World Cup qualifiers (30).
Nigeria’s three goals at the 2010 World Cup all came from set piece situations (one penalty, one direct free kick and one from a throw-in).
Over half (11/21) of the goals that Nigeria have conceded at World Cups have come from set plays, however (three corners, two direct free kicks, four indirect free kicks and two penalties).
No goalkeeper kept more clean sheets in the top five European leagues in 2013/14 than Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama (21, for Lille).
Nigeria World Cup 2014 Opta Stats
Nigeria are taking part in their fifth World Cup. Since their first participation in 1994, the Super Eagles have only missed out in 2006.
They have never progressed further than the last 16, losing against Italy in 1994 (2-1 after extra-time) and Denmark in 1998 (4-1).
Only Cameroon (7) have made more appearances at the World Cup than Nigeria (5) among African nations.
No team conceded fewer goals than Nigeria in the 2014 African World Cup qualifiers (4) among teams that reached the final round.
Nigeria were unbeaten in their eight qualifying games, the only African team to achieve this feat alongside Ivory Coast.
Overall World Cup record
Goals for: 17
Goals against: 21