The FIFA World Cup saw its first draw of the tournament today in a match between Iran and Nigeria of Group F. There were high hopes for the Nigerian squad to take the win, as they plan on making it out of group play. However, the game proved to be somewhat of a drag and was full of missed opportunities on both sides. Nigeria’s draw against Iran does not bode well for the Super Eagles’ chances of making it out of group stages.
Of the World Cup matches played this Monday, the game between Iran and Nigeria was the most underwhelming. While Pepe caused quite the uproar with his headbutt against German forward Thomas Müller, and while Clint Dempsey fed the Outlaws with a goal against Ghana in the first 30 seconds, the majority of the action for Iran and Nigeria was seen in their fans’ reactions to missed opportunities. Nigeria came out strong with Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omerou back from injury, however once Godfrey Oboabona came off with an injury, the Super Eagles never achieved an effective intensity. The first-half substitution marked a noticeable change in the Nigerian’s play.
Though an Asian powerhouse, Iran’s record on the World Cup stage has not seen the national team make it out of group play. Nigeria, on the other hand, made it to the second round back in 1998, but a habit of low scoring averages has doomed the team in subsequent appearances. As it stands now, the Super Eagles will need to outperform opponents Bosnia and Herzegovina if they want to have a chance of advancing. Today’s draw does not bode well for Nigeria in that respect.
In the 7th minute, Musa’s goal was disallowed because John Obi Mikel allegedly fouled Iranian goalkeeper, Alireza Haghighi. Nigeria was dealt another blow as touted forward Victor Moses proved to be ineffective. The Super Eagles tried to combat Iran’s packed defense by sticking four strikers up top at the end of the second half. Unfortunately, Iran was unable to capitalize on the late advantage of a weaker Nigerian defense.
The two teams’ style of play arguably fated them to the draw this Monday. Iran’s heavy defense and Nigeria’s low scoring average made for an uneventful game. For the first time in recent history, Alexi Lalas had very little to say after the match. Lalas justified the post-game silence rather bluntly, explaining that a lot of times when a match results in a draw there is at least an exciting game to watch. Lalas concluded that, “this was not one of them,” and signed off of the post-game review. In a game that can count the number of on-frame shots with one hand, Nigeria had better step it up offensively if they plan to make it out of Group F.
Both teams see their next match this Saturday, June 21st. Iran will face Argentina, and Nigeria will determine their fate for this World Cup against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the loss, Bosnia performed commendably against the Argentinian machine, and the Golden Lilies have blossomed with much better composure on the ball while under pressure. Following a game that does not bode well for the squad, Nigeria can only hope to perform better up against the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson