World Cup Group F | Cuiaba | Sun 22 Jun | 6am
The battle for runners-up spot in Group F.
Nigeria huffed and puffed and never looked like blowing Iran’s house down, while but for a moment of Lionel Messi magic, World Cup debutants Bosnia might have come away with an almost-deserved point against Argentina.
And with Messi and his merry men expected to improve sufficiently to sweep aside Iran and subsequently Nigeria, a point from this game and a win against Iran could well be enough to send the Dragons through.
Not that Bosnia will sit back, given their strengths going forward. They will, though, be buoyed by the return from injury of midfield general Sejad Salihovic.
Nigeria, meanwhile, are forced into at least once change, with Joseph Yobo likely to replace injured defender Godfrey Oboabona from the start. With Shola Ameobi and Peter Odemwingie giving the team much-needed directness from the bench, they are pushing for selection too.
What the local media say
Nigeria’s Daily Sun is in no doubt as to the enormity of the game: “FIFA had, before the start of the tournament, described the Nigeria-Bosnia tie as the crunch match of Group F and the results so far confirmed that.”
Key battle: John Obi Mikel vs Miralem Pjanic
With Ogenyi Onazi deployed as Nigeria’s midfield destroyer, Mikel is free to be more creative, but as was proved against Iran (see graphic), that’s clearly not his strength; the Chelsea anchorman was regressive, pedestrian and wasteful in possession. He might be of more use sticking to Pjanic like glue. The Roma playmaker lived up to his reputation against Argentina, creating several chances for team-mates and threatening the goal himself.
Facts and figures
- Nigeria haven’t won any of their last 9 World Cup games (D3 L6), their last victory was a 1-0 over Bulgaria in 1998.
- Nigeria’s last World Cup goal from open play came in 2002 (Aghahowa against Sweden). Since then, the Eagles have mustered just 3 goals in 5 games, all from dead-ball situations.
- No player was involved in more goals than Edin Dzeko in the European qualifiers (14 – 10 goals, 4 assists).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
The gloves are off but two top keepers will keep the scoring shots down. 1-1.