It’s evenings like this that really bring the World Cup to life. Across the world this evening/afternoon/morning/whatever, tens of millions of people will be choosing to watch the 2014 World Cup debuts of… Iran and Nigeria. This is Iran’s fourth appearance at this stage of the tournament, but they have never got through the group stages of the tournament before. Their debut came in 1978, when they were eliminated after three matches, drawing against Scotland and losing gainst the Netherlands. It took twenty years for the team to get this far and, whilst they were unable to get through the first fournd of the tournament they did at least secure a victory against the United States of America, a result which was treated in Iran as if the team had won the whole tournament itself. Eight years ago in Germany, they could manage just one point from three games again, this time as a result of drawing their final match against Angola.

Nigeria, meanwhile, didn’t make their World Cup finals debut until 1994, and they kicked off in style, topping their group before only losing after extra time at the hands of Italy in the Second Round of the competition. Four years later in France, they managed to repeat this feat, beating Spain and Bulgaria in the group stage of the competition before being comprehensively beaten in the next round by Denmark. Since then, however, things haven’t gone quite so well for the Super Eagles. They finished bottom of their group at both the 2002 and 2010 tournaments, and failed to qualify at all in 2006. So, come hither and join Ed Carter and Mark Murphy shortly before eight o’clock for a match that may well go a long way towards deciding one of the qualification spots for the Second Round of this year’s finals.

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