Group F will feature one match that has become something of a classic fixture of and five that have never been played on the big stage before, part of the reason for which is because Bosnia-Herzegovina are making their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup™, while Iran have only ever faced their group rivals in friendlies.
As for Argentina and Nigeria, the other two combatants in the group, there is not much they do not know about each other. Their meeting next June will be the latest instalment in an exciting rivalry between the two sides, led by Lionel Messi and John Obi Mikel, who have faced off three times in major competitions at different age levels: the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005, the gold medal match at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 and in the group phase at South Africa 2010. On all three occasions Argentina won.
There is not much that has not already been said about two-time world champions Argentina or for that matter about Messi, who will renew his bid to lift the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy. Alejandro Sabella’s men are the favourites to top a group in which reigning African champions Nigeria will be aiming to make the experience they have acquired on their four previous appearances count. Meanwhile, Bosnia will be out to replicate the entertaining brand of football that made them the fourth-highest scorers in the European qualifiers, and Iran, coached by Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz will hope to combine solid organisation with the technical attributes they have long been known for.
Players to watch
Lionel Messi, (ARG), Sergio Aguero (ARG), Gonzalo Higuain (ARG), John Obi Mikel (NGA), Victor Moses (NGA), Victor Obinna (NGA), Edin Dzeko (BIH), Vedad Ibisevic (BIH), Miralem Pjanic (BIH), Reza Ghoochannejhad (IRN), Javad Nekounam (IRN), Karim Ansari (IRN).
The crunch match
Bosnia-Nigeria: in a section that most people will expect Argentina to win, games such as this one will be crucial in deciding who goes through to the last 16. The European side will have the challenge of performing in circumstances that will be entirely new to them, while the Nigerians will be eyeing the chance to reach the knockout phase for the first time since France 1998.
A look back
Argentina 2-1 Nigeria, 25 June 1994, Boston
This game, which will forever be remembered as Diego Armando Maradona’s last match for his country, pitted an Argentina side packed with stars such as El Diez, Claudio Caniggia, Fernando Redondo and Gabriel Batistuta against a Nigeria team very much on the up and up and featuring the likes of Rashidi Yekini, Finidi George and Emmanuel Amunike. The Africans took a surprise early lead through Samson Siasia, only for the wily Caniggia to turn the game around with a typically predatory double. The blond-haired striker’s cry of “Diego, Diego”, imploring Maradona to play the pass that would lead to his second goal, is an iconic moment for Argentina fans.
Did you know?
Bosnia-Herzegovina, who played their first official match as an independent national team in November 1995, came close to making their World Cup debut at South Africa 2010 but lost out in the play-offs to Portugal. Twenty-four of their 26 most regularly selected players ply their trade outside the country.
36 - The number of years since Argentina and Iran met for the first and only time to date. That match, which ended in a 1-1 draw, took place in Madrid on 22 March 1977 and formed part of Real Madrid’s 75th anniversary celebrations. One year later La Albiceleste won their maiden World Cup title on home soil in a competition that marked the Asian side’s world finals debut.
There's no easy match on the world cup, but effort and hard work always gives rewards! C´mon Argentina!!