The expectations of many Nigerian fans were doused by the uninspiring display of the Super Eagles in their group F opener against Iran. A game many expected the Eagles to win, to have any hopes of emerging from the group comprising of Argentina and Bosnia Herzegovania, their tame display in Curitiba left a whole country disillusioned. The goalless draw with Iran stretched Nigeria’s winless FIFA World Cup record to nine. The game also clinched the unenviable record of the first match in Brazil 2014 to witness no goal.
Iran’s Portuguese coach; Carlos Queiroz presented a well drilled team that achieved their aim of stopping Nigeria, in a disciplined defensive display. The team sat deep and worked tirelessly in tandem, seeking to stretch the Nigerian defence on the counter. The best chance of the game fell to the Iranians in the first half when the brilliant header from the tireless Reza Ghoochannejhad was saved by Nigerian keeper; Vincent Enyeama.
Nigeria, on the other hand, though showing some attacking intent, lacked the individual brilliance to penetrate the Persian defence wall, with the poor decision making of the clueless attack costing the team. The lack of creativity in the Nigerian midfield was exposed in the game as the African Champions were unable to fashion out clear cut chances despite the 63% possession they amassed. The apparent frustrations translated to aimless long balls into the Iranian box from the likes of Ogenyi Onazi and the pedestrian Mikel, who ironically won the man of the match.
Apart from some bright play from Peter Odemwingie, who came on from the bench in the second half, the performance of the team did not inspire any confidence and Coach Stephen Keshi has his work cut out. A creative and clinical display would be required to get some joy from their next opponents; Bosnia and Argentina to have any hopes of qualifying from the group. He would have to do better with his tactics and match plan and find a way to motivate the Eagles to at least end their winless record.
If I were the coach, I would give Odemwingie a start and entrust the young Michael Uchebo with the task to man the troubled creative midfield slot. However, far away from Brazil and devoid of any such influence, we can only dream and hope that the Eagles would fly again.