Nigeria prove it's not worth getting cross: how Stats Zone saw Iran 0-0 Nigeria
There seems little point dressing this up as an all-time classic, but there were still some interesting aspects of this first round clash.
On the face of it, the result does little good for either team's hopes of making the knockout stages, with Argentina lying in wait for both sides in the coming days. But avoiding defeat in their opening game was perhaps both teams' main priority.
Nigeria actually strated the match like a house on fire - throwing players forward and looking to play balls into the penalty area. They weren't always successful in doing so, but they at least looked positive and were able to carve out 2 reasonable chances in the first 10 minutes.
But Iran soon got a foothold in the match, and although they never really enjoyed any prolonged spells of possession, they were able to ensure the same could be said of their opponents from the 10th minute onwards.
Between them, the two teams mustered just 5 shots on target - 4 of them relatively speculative ones from outside the penalty area.
Then came the Nigerian crosses. Failed cross after failed cross after failed cro... well, presumably you don't want us to do this 20-odd times? Nigeria didn't find a green shirt with a cross until the 86th minute - or the 27th attempt. Although the Super Eagles could argue things were improving, it would probably have been worth working on a Plan B...
Nigeria's lack of success when whipping balls in to the opposition box was, of course, not all of their own making. Iran's defence was solid and well organised, making 41 clearances. There was plenty of bite in midfield too, with a total of 20 tackles made across the pitch.
Nigeria midfielder Ogenyi Onazi did at least bring some flashes of quality to the table. The Lazio starlet was the game's top passer (77), had 3 shots (1 on target), made 9 ball recoveries, and also chipped in with 6 tackles.
Nigeria made attacking changes in a vain attempt to inspire some creativity, but not even the great Shola Ameobi could muster a goal. The Newcastle United cult hero managed 2 shots on target during his 38 minutes on the pitch - 1 saved and 1 blocked near the line. Not bad, but sadly also not enough.
Another second half addition with Premier League experience was Peter Odemwingie. The Stoke City star didn't waste much time getting involved in the attacking third - in fact, he completed more passes in the final third than any Iranian player managed over the course of the match, despite only playing 21 minutes. Yet, he couldn't forge an opening either.
Both teams - perhaps with the exception of Iran's defence - may want to consider a few extra shifts at their training camps over the next few days.
Facts and figures
- This game ended a run of 18 World Cup matches without a draw, the last being Ghana against Uruguay in the quarter-final stage four years ago (based on results after extra-time).
- This wait for a draw (13 games) in a single World Cup tournament is the longest since 1930, when there were 0 in the event.
- Iran kept their first clean sheet in a World Cup, in their 10th match.
- This was Nigeria’s second World Cup goalless draw, in their 15th match - the other being against England in 2002.
- Nigeria have failed to win any of their last 9 World Cup matches, extending the longest winless run of any team taking part in this tournament.
- Iran had 1 shot on target in this match, the joint-fewest by a team in a game in this tournament, along with Honduras and Cameroon.
- This match contained the joint-fewest shots on target in the tournament (5), level with Cameroon vs Mexico.
- Of midfielders to play a full 90 minutes in this tournament, only Ivan Perisic and Roger Espinoza completed fewer passes in a game than Ehsan Hajsafi’s 16 in this game.
- 2 teams have failed to score against Nigeria in the Super Eagles’ last 9 World Cup games: England and Iran.