World Cup 2014 Preview
The Group Stages
In Group F Argentina are the only team in the top twenty in the world rankings. Bosnia and Herzegovina make their first finals appearance.
Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
Every national coach must be envious of the riches available to Alejandro Sabella. Sabella is the coach tasked with returning Argentina to the top of the football world. It would also cement Lionel Messi’s place at the top of the list of the greatest footballer’s ever. Messi’s predecessor, Diego Maradona, was the last Argentinian captain to lift the trophy back in Mexico ’86. The attacking talent in their squad consists of player such as the aforementioned Messi, Gonazlo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel Di Maria. Fitting these players in to a system or indeed picking the best three or four is where the challenge lies for Sabella. Elsewhere on the pitch Ever Banega holds the midfield together with the tigerish Javier Mascherano hassling and harrying opponents at every given opportunity. Pablo Zabaleta remains one of the most reliable and consistent full-backs in the world and his experience will help no end.
Argentina finished 1st in the South American group stages, with just two defeats in their sixteen games, averaging over two goals per game. Messi was top-scorer with ten goals, Higuain got nine and Aguero managed five. Argentina are favourites to win Group F and are currently ranked 3rd in the world.
Competing in their first ever World Cup finals, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), were very impressive in qualifying. They won their group ahead of Greece on goal difference and have risen to a ranking of 21st in the world as a result. BiH averaged three goals per game and only conceded six in their ten matches. Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic have forged a seemingly unstoppable partnership up front, Dzeko got ten goals and Ibisevic eight, along the way. With the creativity coming from Miralem Pjanic and Misimovic behind that strong front two then BiH will have a great chance of advancing from this group. Other players utilised by coach Safet Susic are Emir Spahic and Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Iran are ranked 42nd in FIFA’s rankings and their coach is former Portuguese and Manchester United man Carlos Queiroz. Iran’s best-known players are Ashkan Dejagah of Fulham and his midfield compatriot, Teymourian. Nekonam was their top-scorer in qualifying with six goals. Iran won both of their Asian group stage qualifiers, therefore gaining an automatic spot in Brazil without having to go through the playoff system.
Nigeria are the lowest ranked team in Group F (FIFA ranking of 47th). Coach Stephen Keshi oversaw the qualification campaign where Nigeria won their group stage easily, and then beat Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate in the African playoffs. Goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama is a veteran along with Obafemi Martins, Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, Victor Obinna and Shola Ameobi. It is hard to see Nigeria causing too many problems for Argentina or Bosnia and Herzegovina and they may well be getting an early flight home.
Group F predictions:
Argentina are the obvious choice for group winners and may be a good bet for making the final at least in Brazil this year. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s firepower should be too much for Iran and Nigeria, seeing them through to the last sixteen with relative ease.
2nd Bosnia and Herzegovina
Join us again in a few days for our preview of Group G.
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