World Cup preview – Group F
Group F gives us one of the World Cup favourites alongside a team making their first appearance in the finals. Outside of Argentina, it looks quite even – who will progress?
This is perhaps Argentina’s best chance in recent memory to win their first tournament since the Copa America 21 years ago. A 4-3-3 with Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, and Lionel Messi looks a frightening prospect, and in contrast to past tournaments they appear to be strong in virtually all areas this time round.
In Gago, di Maria, and Mascherano they have a great mix in the midfield, and while the full-backs were slightly exposed in some of their more competitive games recently (see Peru and Ecuador) they will hope their attacking flair more than makes up for any frailties at the back. Ex Sheffield United star Alex Sabella appears to have settled on a side and style that works and had the luxury of continuing Carlos Tevez’s exile from the squad. With the options at his disposal, it hardly makes a dent on their chances.
Prediction: Comfortably 1st as Argentina power through – the scorelines could get messy for the rest of the group.
Bosnia and Hercegovina
In what was an impressive and perhaps unexpected display in the qualifying stages, Bosnia and Hercegovina topped their group, winning 8 of their 10 games. Paris Saint-Germain legend Safet Susic has made his side exciting to watch, albeit with a slightly sluggish defence – Emir Spahic and Ermin Bicakcic reliant on the excellent Asmir Begovic behind them.
In Edin Dzeko with Miralem Pjanic just behind they can land a serious punch up front – the team scored 30 goals in their qualifiers, including an 8-1 demolition at Liechtenstein. However, this goal spree was at a time Susic used two strikers – the recent switch to a lone striker, dropping Vedad Ibisevic, may see add a bit more steel replacing some of the firepower.
Prediction: they could get destroyed in the opener against Argentina, but a rapid recovery in their remaining games will see them 2nd.
While it’s easy to right off a team with a traditionally poor World Cup record, this is a team that may surprise. Absent from the finals 4 years ago, Iran under the guidance of ex Man United coach Carlos Queiroz had a fantastic set of results to qualify for Brazil, beating South Korea home and away to top their group.
Queiroz’s key contribution has been to secure the services of players that were eligible to play for other nations. These include keeper Daniel Davari, Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah, Charlton forward Reza Ghoochannejhad, and Vancouver Whitecaps right-back Steven Beitashour.
Prediction: Perhaps not the walkover they’ve been in the past, but it’s tough to see them get the results to avoid a 4th place finish.
After impressive displays at USA ’94 and France ’98, Nigeria’s been stuck In a rut for a while. Bottom of their group in 2002 and 2010, absent in 2006, with no wins since the finals in France, Nigeria has an opportunity to restore some pride. They arrive in Brazil as the reigning Cup of Nations winners and were unbeaten in the qualifiers.
With decent pace throughout the side, they have a reasonable chance of reaching the knockout stages, though their inability to beat Mexico and Scotland in recent friendlies will be a concern. Nigeria will rely on the likes of Victor Moses, Peter Odemwingie and Emmanuel Emenike to see them through – the experienced Joseph Yobo at the back. Free agent Shola Ameobi is in the squad, available after ending 14 years at St James’s Park.
Prediction: 3rd, though it’ll be a close call with Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Written by @josephclift