There have been surprises and shocks galore at this World Cup and that Iran, who have arguably done the best job of surpassing expectations apart from Costa Rica, are still in with a chance of qualifying tonight, probably sums up the underdog fortunes for the tournament.
Carlos Quieroz’s side would have aimed to avoid embarrassment but in taking a point anger Nigeria and then holding Argentina to a last minute winner from Lionel Messi, having grown dangerously as an attacking force since the game became very stretched in the second half as they pushed for one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s recent history.
And qualification today isn’t out of the question. Nigeria must face Argentina, and in meeting Bosnia, there is nothing for Iran to fear and a win is likely to take them through. Iran don’t lack in the spirit and definitely not the competence to create chances – Sergio Romero, much maligned for spending just three games in goal for Monaco this season, made two saves that kept the game level – but it will be fascinating to see from which point they try to go for a win, having put 11 men behind the ball in their two games so far.
Nigeria were made to look second rate by that tactic in their opener but had much more success when beating Bosnia, providing a great treat on the break as Bosnia pushed forward and also made chances in a game far more open than the 1-0 scoreline suggested. Whether they apply a similar tactic today against a Bosnia side that is unlucky – on performances at least – to be going home so early is a key factor of the game. Safet Susic’s side were caught on the break against Nigeria but had Edin Dzeko’s opener ruled out wrongly before a string of poor finishes from the Manchester City man cost them the point that would have kept them in the competition.
In the likes of Senad Lulic and especially Miralem Pjanic, who has been at least as good for Bosnia as he has been for Roma in both games so far, they have the creativity needed to get past a stoic Iranian defence, although they were worryingly open on the break against Nigeria and given the problems that Iran posted the Albiceste when the game opened up in the second half. Ashkan Dejagah was a constant threat for 20 second half minutes and Pejman Montazeri proved a threat, and they can replace the role of Musa and Odemwingie.
However, when it comes down towards it Iran’s defence is likely to be just as tough a challenge for Bosnia to break down as it was for Nigeria and Argentina and the 4/5 offered on under 2.5 goals looks tempting given that Iran have blanked in four of their last 6 fixtures, including both at this World Cup, while conceding just the once. Also, have a touch on no goalscorer. It’s just as likely that both these sides could blank eachother out.
2.5 pts Under 2.5 goals (4/5 general)
1 pt No goalscorer (9/1 general)