2014 World Cup – Group F
Argentina vs Iran
Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto – Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN, Univision
Money Line: Iran +2050 / Argentina -805 / Draw +835
Point Line: Argentina -2.5 +130 / Iran +2.5 -150
Total: Over 3 -125 / Under 3 +105
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Argentina opened World Cup play last Sunday with a shaky 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F play. Still they got the full 3 points, and were the only team in their group to win their match. In the other group game Monday, Iran and Nigeria played to a scoreless draw. Argentina and Iran meet Saturday in Belo Horizonte. Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina will play later in the day in Cuiaba. An Argentina win would clinch a spot in the knockout round, but they would only clinch first place with a Nigeria-Bosnia draw. Iran is not eliminated even with a loss, or what happens in the other game.
This is only the second ever meeting between Argentina and Iran. They played to a 1-1 draw in Madrid in 1977 in a friendly. In fact, Iran has only played one other South American side and that was Peru in 1978.
Iran and Nigeria played to the first draw of the 2014 World Cup, 12 games in last Monday. In fact before the goalless draw, 10 of the previous 11 games had 3 goals or more scored, with Mexico’s 1-0 win over Cameroon being the only exception.
That streak came to a screeching halt between Nigeria and Iran, in a game mostly played in the midfield. Iran was perfectly happy laying back and playing for the draw. Most of the scoring chances happened for Nigeria. In the seventh minute Nigeria scored a goal off the boot of Ahmed Musa but the referee disallowed it saying Nigeria’s Jon Obi Mikel fouled Iranian keeper Alireza Haghighi on the play. Later Haghighi made a spectacular save on a Musa free kick from 30 yards out. Iran’s best scoring chance came on a corner at 34 minutes. Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama made a good save on a header from striker Reza Ghoochannejad. Nothing much of note happened in the second half. Nigerian substitute Shola Ameobi who came in early in the second half came close on a couple of headers. Nigeria was booed off the pitch by their fans at the end of a lackluster match.
Nigeria had 10 shots and 6 on goal. Iran had 7 and 3. Fouls were 18-16 for Iran. Nigeria had possession for 63% of the time. Nigeria had 7 corners to 2 for Iran. Iran was called for the lone offsides in the match.
Argentinian fans took over the famed Estadio Maracana of their longtime bitter rival Brazil last Sunday against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Argentina got lucky three minutes into the game as Lionel Messi struck a free kick from 40 yards out that Marcos Rojo headed. It hit Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac and bounced into the net for the own goal. Neither team would score again until Messi scored a fantastic goal from just inside the penalty arc at the 65th minute. It was only the second career World Cup goal for the brilliant Messi and first since 2006. Bosnian forward Vedad Ibisevic made it 2-1 at the 85th minute that went under Argentinian keeper Sergio Ramos’ and barely dribbled into the net. Neither team would score again as Argentina held on for the 2-1 win.
Argentina had 11 shots including 5 on goal. Bosnia had 16 and 11. Bosnia had 10 fouls to 10 for Argentina. Argentina had possession for 55% of the time. Bosnia had 6 corners to 2 for Argentina. Bosnia was called for offsides three times to 0 for Argentina.
Iran is coached by former Portugal head man Carlos Queiroz. Iran uses a 4-2-3-1 attack. Iran is managed by Carlos Queiroz, who managed Portugal in the 2010 World cup in South Africa. Midfielder and captain Javad Nekounam has 139 caps for Iran. Striker Reza Ghoochannejhad is only 26 but is already seen as a savior for the team. He scored 7 goals in qualifying. Ashkan Dejagah shores up the midfield alongside Andranik Teymourian. Iran is healthy right now.
Argentina’s coach Alejandro Sabella installed a surprising 5-3-2 system in the first half against Bosnia. He abandoned it for their favored 4-3-3 system in the second half, and Argentina will use the 4-3-3 system against Iran. Talented forward Gonzalo Higuain will start up front in between Messi and Sergio Aguero, one of the best front lines in the world with all three being elite scorers. As always the biggest question is a back line that can allow open space. Keeper Ramos had to make 10 saves against Bosnia because the defense allowed offensive players to blow right past them. It might not be an issue against Iran or even Nigeria, but eventually it will catch up to them.
Iran needs to be more aggressive than they were against Nigeria. Iran will be content to hold the ball in the midfield, much like a college basketball team that uses all 35 seconds on the shot clock to slow down a faster opponent. Argentina can score at any minutes though. I think Argentina wins 2-0.
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