Group F contains two time world champs Argentina, our beloved Super Eagles, debutants Bosnia Herzegovina and Iran.
- Argentina: Let’s think about this for a second. How do you stop Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. Honestly, I don’t think any manager at the world cup has an answer to that. Argentina’s strike force is simply awesome and without a shadow of a doubt, the best in the world. In a squad that lacks balance, their attack is their greatest weapon. Argentina managed 35 goals in 16 matches in the qualifiers losing only 2 games. Coach Alejandro Sabella prefers a 4-3-3 formation that has brought out the best in Lionel Messi since he took charge in 2011. Argentina are expected to walk this group but question marks still persists about this teams ability to cope with tougher opposition. They have not gotten to the semi finals of the mundial since 1990. The world waits to see if Messi can deliver this time around.
Bosnia Herzegovina: Bosnia are the only country making their debut at this world cup. They qualified from their group ahead of Greece on goal difference winning many admirers along the way and for good reason. Coach Safet Susic is a disciple of attacking and expansive football which saw his team score 30 goals in 10 matches at the qualifying stage. This gung ho approach leaves them vulnerable at the back but Susic is prepared to stick to his philosophy at the world cup. To write off the Bosnians as minnows at this world cup will be a huge mistake as they have players plying their trade at the top. Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic is the undisputed number one between the sticks and he had a fine campaign in the Premier League last season. In defense, they have Bayer Leverkusen’s Emir Saphic who will bring calmness to the back. Other notable members of the squad are Senad Lulic, Hoffenheim’s Saejad Salihovic and Zvjezdan Misimovic. Most of Bosnia’s creativity will be provided by the brilliant playmaker Miralem Pjanic who was simply spectacular for his club AS Roma last season. It attack, Bosnia have 2 fantastic options in Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibisevic and Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko. Both men are a fantastic partnership and fit well in Safet Susic’s 4-4-2 formation. They scored 18 goals between them in the qualifiers. Most of Bosnia’s good work in this tournament will come from them.
- Nigeria: The Super Eagles are making their 5th appearance at the world cup qualifying with ease and without losing a single game in the process. They negotiated a group that included Malawi, Kenya and Namibia before dispensing with Ethiopia in a 2 game playoff 4-1 on aggregate. Coach Stephen Keshi has turned the fortunes of the Nigerian team around since he took charge guiding them to the African Championshop in 2013 and a decent showing in last summer’s confederations cup. Keshi is a firm admirer of the 4-3-3 formation with much of Nigeria’s threat coming from the flanks where CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa and Chelsea’s Victor Moses are very pivotal. In attack, Fernebache’s Emmanuel Emenike is the key man and he has scored 10 times in 23 appearances for Nigeria. John Obi Mikel is the key man in midfield with him and Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi forming a good partnership. The return of Joseph Yobo in defense is expected to bring calmness and maturity at the back for Nigeria and in goalkeeper and skipper Vincent Enyeama, they have one of the best shot stoppers in the business. Nigeria have failed to make it out of the group stage in their last two outings in the world cup. To avoid a repeat, the Eagles must make a strong statement in their opening fixture against Iran.
Iran: Iran are making their 4th appearance in the world cup since they made their debut in 1998. In the 9 matches they’ve played at the mundial, the Iranians have managed just one win against the United States in a historic win in 1998. They might be short on star names, but have a manager of vast experience in Carlos Queiroz who guided Portugal to the round of 16 in the 2010 world cup in South Africa. The Portuguese has worked wonders with the Iranians. He operates a defensive formation with emphasis on counter attacking football. The team kept 10 clean sheets in the qualifiers so we know where their strength lies. Their key players are the ever present Javad Mekounam and Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah. Iran will have to be on top of their game if they harbour any hopes of making it out of the group stage for the first time ever.
- Footynyx Verdict: Surely Argentina to top. Second place is a toss up between Nigeria and Bosnia.