The group consists of Argentina, Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran. On paper it seems like perennial underachievers, Argentina, will dominate the group, with Bosnia- Herzegovina and Nigeria fighting it out for second place and Carlos Queiroz’s Iran expected to be the group whipping boys. Although, at the World Cup things do not always go to plan. I would expect Argentina to win all three of their matches, they have an embarrassment of riches upfront and haven’t even brought Carlos Tevez. It will be the battle for second spot that will be the intriguing one in this group, which is expected to a two way battle between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria, with which Iran may also play a vital role.
What can you say really? They probably have the most potent attacking line out of any of the national teams on display in Brazil. Messi (10.7), Aguero (10.3) and Higuain (9.7) form Argentina’s attacking trident. Messi was the team’s top scorer in qualifying, netting 10 goals, only 1 behind the top scorer, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, Higuain also scored 9 goals, Aguero chipped in with 5 and Di Maria netted three times also. It seems that going forward is where Argentina’s real strength lies, but be aware, their qualification group did not feature the likes of Brazil, this sort of limits their achievements of topping the group.
Key Player – The key players really are the attacking trident and it will be the success or failure of Lionel Messi that will most likely determine Argentina’s fortunes. Messi’s record at World Cups is dire, scoring only a single goal in both tournaments he has played in, however under Sabella he has 20 in 20, so it appears he is starting realise his potential at international level. He will be among the free kick takers and is also Argentina’s penalty taker, so the potential for points with the Barcelona starlet is there, but at 10.7 million he represents a fairly large outlay so is not without risks.
One to watch – I could be really obvious and go for Aguero, Higuain or Di Maria, and yes, these will all be important players for Argentina, but I am going to plump for Ezequiel Lavezzi (7.1) of PSG. I would not put him in your team straight away, I would wait for a line-up but this guy has real class and has shown it this season, netting nine times for PSG from the wing. This will probably be his last world cup and his last chance to shine at international level, so if he is in the lineup he is definitely worth a shot.
The Super Eagles have promised so much over the years and if a team from Africa was ever going to go all the way, many experts thought that it would be Nigeria. Although, performing adequately, they have never really lived up to the promise that they showed in the Olympics – winning the gold in 1996 and the silver medal in 2008. They qualified for the World Cup with relative ease, although not making too many big statements along the way, and were hardly prolific in front of goal, with Emmanuel Emenike (6.8) top scorer with only 3 goals. Stephen Keshi, the Nigeria coach, is also a controversial figure in his homeland. he has gone for a youthful squad and is not afraid to make big calls, taking several African based players to the recent African Nations Cup.
Key Player – It was a toss-up between Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, but given that Moses hasn’t featured much for Liverpool this season I would have to plump for Emenike – he has been in good club form for Fenerbahce scoring 12 in 23 starts. He is a big powerful unit, keeps his composure in front of goal and with a decent World Cup, may end up making a big money transfer outside of Turkey. Bearing in mind that Nigeria play Iran in the first match, he could be a cheap differential at just 6.8 million, and would free up funds to use elsewhere in your team.
One to watch – Sunday Mba, he scored a couple of cracking goals in the Nations Cup, a stunning long range effort in the quarter finals against Ivory Coast and then netted the winner in the final against Burkino Faso. It’s clear the lad has talent but is incredibly raw. At 4.7 million, he could be a real bargain. He signed for Bastia in the winter transfer window and scored 4 in 16 appearances, it would seem playing for his national team inspires him!
Bosnia finished top of their group in qualification but only on goal difference, however the difference in goals between them and Greece was emphatic – Bosnia scoring 30 to Greece’s 12. This led to Bosnia having two of the tournament’s top three scorers in Dzeko (8.5) and Ibisevic (6.7), so they definitely know where the goal is and could be a real gold mine of points if they manage to reproduce that form in Brazil. They are not short of talent in the midfield either, with Pjanic (5.3) of Roma having an impressive season in Serie A and Salihovic (5.0) having an equally impressive season with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, scoring 11 goals. However be wary they was recently humbled by Egypt in a recent friendly and more importantly outclassed by Argentina 2-0 in a friendly before the groups were announced, with Aguero netting twice.
Key Player – Edin Dzeko, the Manchester City hitman probably had his best season for the citizens so far, in a season which culminated in them winning the Premier League. If Bosnia are to succeed in getting out of the group then you would imagine Dzeko will need to play well, being the focal point of the team whether they play 4-5-1 or 4-4-2.
One to watch – I was going to say Salihovic but he has already been covered in Rob Wrights blog of Hidden Gems (which is excellent reading by the way), so instead, I am going to go with Ibisevic. He is 6.7 million and was only 2 goals behind Dzeko in qualification. He either plays a supporting role to Dzeko in a 4-4-2 or plays out on the right in a 4-5-1. He had an ok season with Stuttgart, scoring ten, but is utilised far more for the national team it seems. If you want a cheap striker to supplement expensive signings elsewhere in your team this could be the guy, but I would wait till after they play their opening game versus Argentina.
Iran proved no slouches in qualification, topping a group that contained South Korea. They were not so prolific in attack but still averaged two goals a game, but maintained a sturdy defence, conceding only twice (please note this is in the final qualification group and not including the preliminary round qualifiers). They also managed a credible victory away to South Korea, however they are in a group with 3 tough teams and you would fancy them to be the group whipping boys. They may surprise one or two and nick a point or even a 1 nil victory, and I expect them to give a good account of themselves. But I think this will be a step too far for them. They also have a wealth of domestic based players in the squad.
Key man – Reza Ghoochannejhad (6.4), the attack is built around this guy, but to be honest, although being the Iranian top scorer in the final group qualification, however he has had a season to forget at club level, netting only twice. He is still considered one of the top players by Queiroz and should get the nod up front despite his club form.
One to watch – it has to be Ashkan Dejagah, he is only 5 million pounds and had a real breakthrough season in a Fulham team that got relegated. He is quick, pacey, can operate on either flank, has a real eye for goal and has a fairly decent delivery. If I had to put one Iranian in my team it would be him, because he just bursts into life and has the potential to score or create out of nothing. I would also say a good showing at the World Cup will earn him a move away from Fulham, he was probably leaving anyway but the World Cup will give him more options if he can perform well.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it’s of some help.
This post was written by FiT Admin