Our Iran expert Mahan Sajadi of @CaspianFootball gives us the lowdown on a country who are in their fourth World Cup, where they'll face a Nigeria side prewiewed by journalist and television presenter Colin Udoh in their first match in Curitiba.
Mahan Sajadi on Iran: Carlos Queiroz has given each of his 23-man squad a tennis ball which must be carried at all times. The motivational acronym written on each to inspire ‘TeamMelli’ (the national team's nickname) to create history and bring joy to 75 million footballing mad population.The likely XI looking to do just that here will be Haghighi, Montazeri, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Pooladi, Nekounam, Teymourian, Hajsafi, Dejagah, Heydari and Ghoochannejhad, who was recently asked by an Iranian journalist: "Are you scared of Kanu and Okocha from Nigeria?" Gucci's answer: "No I'm not scared of them, 'cause they don't play for Nigeria anymore!''
Colin Udoh on Nigeria: No more than two places in the starting lineup have a question mark on them. The one certainty is who will join John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi in central midfield. Ramon Azeez is in direct competition with Ejike Uzoenyi and Okechukwu Uchebo for that position but should win out. Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo have returned from injury and will most certainly replace Osaze Odemwingie and Joseph Yobo. Likely lineup: Enyeama, Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Oboabona, Omeruo; Mikel, Onazi, Ramon; Musa, Moses, Emenike
Mahan Sajadi on Iran: A 2-0 behind closed doors win over Trinidad & Tobago leaves Iran unbeaten in five matches going into the must win clash against Nigeria. This is essentially Iran’s World Cup Final, a match they need to win if they are to have any hopes of progressing to the next round.
Colin Udoh on Nigeria: Two draws and one loss in their preparatory games leading up to the tournament is not exactly awe-inspiring stuff, but what must trouble Stephen Keshi the most will be the flatness of his team's showing in that final game against the USA where they lost 2-1 showing listless play, predictable passing and laboured buildup. If they are to win against Iran, that has got to change.Even more concerning has got to be the lack of goals. Keshi's team are miserly in front of goal and that is something that will have to change.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Iran’s Carlos Queiroz: 'There will be no tears for us anymore and we need to work hard to make our rivals cry.’
Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi: 'Queiroz is playing mind games (when he says Nigeria are favourites). We are not favourites. In fact, I would say back to him that his team are favourites.'
Mahan Sajadi on Iran: Charlton Athletic's Reza Ghoochannejhad, who has 10 goals in 14 international appearances. ‘Gucci’ will be looking to repeat his heroic performances and aim to achieve Iran’s second ever win at the World Cup.
Colin Udoh on Nigeria: Nigeria don't concede many goals, even to teams of quality, but the real problem is that they don't score that many either, especially not in the absence of Emmanuel Emenike. Which makes it imperative that the forward has a good game. Goals might end up being the key to who advances in this group, and most will be those scored on Iran. Emenike is built strong, brutish to play against, can run like a gazelle, and knows how to finish, whether from close range or distance. If he is on top of his game, and gets a confidence-boosting goal, the Iran defence will have a torrid time with him.
Mahan Sajadi on Iran: Under 1.5 Goals 3.20
Colin Udoh on Nigeria: The Omeruo/Oboabona partnership has kept most of Nigeria's clean sheets. If they start, that would be worth a punt, especially at half-time at 1.47. Ogenyi Onazi likes to go in hard and early, so it's worth putting him down for a card at 4.50. Victor Moses takes the penalties and is 5.60 to score at any time.
Mahan Sajadi: Iran to win 1-0 10.00
Colin Udoh: Iran 0-2 Nigeria at 10.00
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