Match: Iran vs Nigeria
Date and Time: Monday 16 June, 16:00 Local Time, 20:00 BST, 15:00 EDT
Location: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Nigeria will be facing a side that is built around a solid defensive base but with few technically gifted players in attack. Iran will aim to frustrate a Nigeria side that is naturally better suited to counter-attack out of its comfort zone.
Iran manager Carlos Queiroz sets up his side to defend, likely in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 shape, relying on experience and discipline (11 of the 23 members over the age of 30) to maintain its defensive shape so that it is tough to beat. Highlighting the strength of this defensive unit, Iran conceded just 7 goals in 16 qualifying matches on the road to Brazil; although the asterisk alongside this figure is the level of competition that Iran met during qualifying was usually of inferior quality to what it will meet at the World Cup.
If there’s a plus in Iran’s attack, it is Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah, will either start out wide on the left or in the hole behind striker Reza Ghoochannejhad of Charlton. Dejagah is a bit of a dual creative and goal scoring threat, with his numbers suffering due to playing for Fulham as well as injury. Aside from a drop during the 2010/11 season – averaging 0.84 shot assists per 90 (SA/90) – Dejagah’s SA/90 remained remarkably consistent, averaging between 1.50 and 1.53 SA/90 minutes, with a SA/90 of 1.53 last season. He also ended the season as Fulham’s second top scorer with five goals, as his 0.35 goals per 90 minutes led Fulham as well as set a five-season high goals per 90.
Nigeria’s front three will be charged with breaking down the Iranian defence, given that the midfield is hardly creative. John Obi Mikel is usually deployed as the most attacking member of Nigeria’s midfield trio, lining up in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 shape – and he is not exactly the most create player. Better known for his defensive work at Chelsea, averaging 6.77 recoveries and 4.57 defensive pressing actions on a per 90 minute basis, Mikel scored his first Chelsea goal – ever – against Fulham last September and has averaged less than 1.0 SA/90 over the last five seasons:
He’s also been credited with just three assists over the last five seasons; but then his creative numbers are hindered by role in the side.
The front three is likely to see Ahmed Musa on the right and Victor Moses on the left behind Emmanuel Emenike, with Moses drifting into the middle more often as Musa is more of a winger. Emenike has had a solid season in Turkey with Fenerbahce, scoring on 12 occasions, averaging 0.52 goals per 90, and will be the goal hope; although Peter Odemwingie’s strong second half to the season could see him become a vital contributor off the bench or could start in a supporting striker role behind Emenike
If either side has any chance of progressing from Group F, this game becomes a must win. Argentina are the strength of the group and will likely beat both; however a win for either Nigeria or Iran will set the victors up for a key fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nigeria are the favourites in this match up but it is likely to be a tight contest as a goal could potentially decide the Victors today
Iran Injuries & Suspensions: None
Nigeria Injuries & Suspensions: None