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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Mark June 16, 201410:00 pm

A match which started scrappily and got worse with age. Both coaches were smiling as they “congratulated” each other at the end. Why were they smiling?
The idea that this is a historic and wonderful point for Iran is as skewed as the idea that they defied all odds to get here. Although it is a good result for them. And they deserve some credit.
Odemwingie actually looked quite good when he came on. Unfortunately Moses looked quite good when he came off. And the match could probably be best summed up by the fact that Efe Ambrose looked comfortable in defence. Efe Ambrose. “Now you know why I play him at centre-half,” says Lennon. “He’s got a curly toe,” he adds, as three million viewers shout “well, you signed him.” Carlos Queiroz, meanwhile, is talking about how “we played against a great team.” Must have been a recording from last year sometime.
Bosnia are bottom of the group. Statistics, eh?
Enjoy Ghana/USA.

Ted June 16, 20149:52 pm

Full time, and I hate football again. A crushing 0-0 draw between a weak team and one who are patently not even trying. Iran came with a game plan to frustrate Nigeria but needn’t have bothered, as the Super Eagles’ profligacy would be laughable had my entire sense of fun not been driven out of me like so many cider apples.

But it’s heartening news for Bosnia & Herzegovina. Now I’m going to go and lie down somewhere quiet.

Mark June 16, 20149:50 pm

Pouladi denies Ameobi twice as we go into only TWO minutes of stoppage time. Even the ref can’t take much more of this.

Mark June 16, 20149:43 pm

My version of that is: Odemwingie fires wide but is penalised for handball – a decision he protests by pointing to a part of his upper arm which proves the referee right.

Ted June 16, 20149:41 pm

Odemwingie is (wrongly) called for handball in the best move of the half. It’s moot anyway, of course, as he blazes his shot wide regardless.

Ted June 16, 20149:40 pm

The Iran team are starting to play a little more expansively, perhaps having realised that they could probably play with a rush goalkeeper tonight and not risk conceding

Mark June 16, 20149:39 pm

Bower claims Iran “defied all odds to get here.” Which is just plain not true.

Ted June 16, 20149:38 pm

To punish Dejagah for almost scoring, Queiroz has immediately withdrawn him and replaced him with Jahanbakhsh.

Mark June 16, 20149:37 pm

39,081 crowd. Won’t be that many at the replay…

Mark June 16, 20149:36 pm

And Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunt double – Iran’s Adranik – is the first booking. Meanwhile, the hope in Bower’s voice every time Odemwingie gest the ball pure tugs at the heartstrings. One hopes for his sake that he’s getting well paid to watch this.
Half-chance for Dejagah. But…you know the rest.

Ted June 16, 20149:32 pm

At least they’re not in the same group as Greece this time. My heart couldn’t take it.

Ted June 16, 20149:31 pm

Nigeria play like they neither know how to score nor want to.

Mark June 16, 20149:28 pm

“Peter Odemwinigie” says Bower. Then, a few seconds’ silence to allow the fact to sink in that the responsibility for rescuing this game from a mire of mediocrity is to rest on a Stoke City player…

Ted June 16, 20149:28 pm

Most disappointing of all is the standard of Nigeria’s set pieces, which have been either comical or tragic, depending on how much you’ve had to drink. Still, Odemwinge is on now. On this display I’d not be surprised to see him drive through the night to the Cameroon hotel and ask if he can be in their team instead.

Ted June 16, 20149:26 pm

Iran are as limited as even Clive Tyldesley’s research would have suggested, so the atrocity that is this game as a contest rests solely with Nigeria, a team increasingly looking like they have never scored a goal in their lives.

Ted June 16, 20149:25 pm

This is dismal.

Mark June 16, 20149:23 pm

A long-range effort from the willing Ghoochannejad and some boo-ing by the Nigerian fans for the Nigerian team. I’m wondering what the odds are on a nil-nil and, to my eternal shame, I’m starting to wonder that for more than one reason.

Mark June 16, 20149:18 pm

There’s a Twitter poll on who the “most credible” pundit is, between Neil Lennon and Alan Shearer. Now, I’m typing this in a Celtic shirt but……………REALLY?????????
Back at the game…nope…still nothing.

Ted June 16, 20149:16 pm

I like to think FIFA are doing the same thing on the screens at the stadium. Just picture after pictures of terrible taxidermy and baby ungulates.

Ted June 16, 20149:15 pm

Mark June 16, 20149:13 pm

I could hear Townsend growling “better” as Musa hit in a dangerous near-post cross. But the resultant corner is back to this game’s basics.

Ted June 16, 20149:13 pm

Nigeria have taken decisive steps to get the breakthrough there, with Shola Ameobi. God help us. Still, it’s not quite in the same league as Spain bringing on Fernando Torres the other night.

Mark June 16, 20149:11 pm

Shola Ameobi for Victor Moses. What Moses could have done in the six minutes since half-time, I’m not sure. Injured? Doesn’t look like it…bar his pride.

Mark June 16, 20149:09 pm

Plenty of noise from the Iranian fans. Just “Iran, Iran.” But at least its not “Ole (x4), Iran, Iran.” AND Ghoochannejad has a half-decent start. Calm…calm…calm…

Ted June 16, 20149:07 pm

Mark June 16, 20149:06 pm

Nigeria’s Oshinawa takes four rolls after getting injured, which seems unwise, as he holds his back after he stops.

Mark June 16, 20149:03 pm

Incisive interesting half-time analysis. Warming hugely to Ferdinand. Phil Neville remains a poor man’s Gary Neville. But he deserved almost none of the criticism he received for his Italy/England co-commentary. And Lennon is excellent.
Dan Walker is now reviewing the World Cup on social media. He’s about to highlight the huge response to Jonathan Pearce’s shameful unprofessionalism yesterday…no, he is…I’m sure of it… Oh.
Didn’t namecheck this blog either. Boo times two.
Oh gawd…the game’s back… And Bower has ALREADY said “well-drilled”, BEFORE the restart.

Ted June 16, 20148:54 pm

Nigeria have been absolutely diabolical in the first half, so much so that I have probably been watching the game all wrong. Instead of being a football match, it’s actually a piece of performance art.

Ted June 16, 20148:52 pm

The good news for you is that if the second half is anything like the first I may just start posting some of my favourite recipes for Indian food

Mark June 16, 20148:50 pm

Bower suggests that Iran having the best chance is “ironic.” The only irony of that first half was the Brazilian chants of “ole” which began to emerge late on. Lineker’s “hustle, bustle no tussle” line draws a vitriolic response from Lennon (“terrible”), although Lenny may have been talking about the game…

Ted June 16, 20148:47 pm

Half-time in a fairly shambolic match, only the second goalless 45 minutes of the tournament so far. The real winner here being Pepe.

Ian June 16, 20148:46 pm

I love terrible football matches, so I’m as happy as a pig in shit at the moment.

Mark June 16, 20148:44 pm

Not sure what the referee said to the stricken Emmenike, but it produced the quickest recovery since Lazarus was told to come forth…

Ted June 16, 20148:41 pm

Spare a thought for both coaches, who are actually paid to make sense of this and suggest improvements at half time.

Mark June 16, 20148:41 pm

Onazi fires thirty yards wide from thirty yards out, as Nigeria’s strikeforce did regularly against Scotland at Fulham recently. Emenike then has another poor effort. At least that part of their preparation seems to have worked. Keshi doesn’t look happy. Even for him.

Ted June 16, 20148:39 pm

The pitch in Curitiba is chewing up pretty well. The groundstaff will be torn between replacing the sods or just planting wheat at half time.

Ted June 16, 20148:37 pm

Just a reminder that in matches that start at the same time as Coronation Street, the players will be allowed a three minute break for hot pots and a half of mild every 45 minutes.

Ted June 16, 20148:35 pm

Iran, in a scarcely believable twist, go closest to scoring a goal yet after some penalty box shenanigans. An applied demonstration of what they could achieve if they played upwards of zero players up front.

Mark June 16, 20148:34 pm

And then Enyeama makes a fine save from Ghoochannejad’s header from a corner. Wooh

Mark June 16, 20148:34 pm

Kilbane suggests that Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi will “want to get his players in at half-time to reorganise.” There’s a third of the half left. The game is getting that desperate.

Mark June 16, 20148:31 pm

The time they gave Oboabona to try and recover from his ankle injury gives lie to Kilbane’s suggestion that it was a “hard choice” to leave Yobo out. Yobo to score soon, although Musa nearly did, cleverly, from a free-kick

Ted June 16, 20148:30 pm

Joseph Yobo replaces Godfrey Oboabona, forshadowing the day this Thursday that Paul Parker replaces Glen Johnson.

Mark June 16, 20148:28 pm

The game is developing into a fast-paced piece of nothing. Iran can’t support their strikers. Nigeria can’t pass to theirs. Its a bit more entertaining than that sounds, but not by much – as proven by the fact I could type this twice (autodelete in better form than Wayne Rooney) without missing any significant action.

Ian June 16, 20148:26 pm

I was just about to say the same thing about Uhlsport. I played for a team that used them for match balls and they were as tough as old boots.

Ted June 16, 20148:26 pm

Nigeria look the most likely team to score at the moment, but it appears to be a theoretical capacity only. Like trying to decide which one of The Saturdays is most likely to get an O.B.E.

Ted June 16, 20148:24 pm

The ball breaks for Ghoochannejhad in Nigeria’s half, but the impact he was able to make was limited by the number of people up in support of him, which is sometimes one and sometimes fewer than that.

Ted June 16, 20148:22 pm

Iran’s kit is made by Uhlsport, which pleases me.

Mark June 16, 20148:22 pm

If the injured Godfrey Oboabona can’t continue, “they have Joseph Yobo” to come on, which won’t be as reassuring to NIgeria fans as Kilbane meant it to be.

Mark June 16, 20148:19 pm

It is a step up in class for Iran in these finals. But, to an extent, that is true of every team in this competition, outside South America. I mean, Italy had the edge on Moldova…

Ted June 16, 20148:16 pm

In a year that has already seen the passing of both Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, the fact bound to make everyone REALLY feel old is that John Obi Mikel is now 27.

Mark June 16, 20148:14 pm

Moses is indeed looking dangerous down the left flank. Obviously that advert in which he inexplicably stars alongside Messi and Ronaldo has proved useful preparation…

Ted June 16, 20148:13 pm

Nigeria’s kit is every inch a disaster but the team are putting in a shift. Victor Moses is causing them all kinds of problems, a fact bound to create some good religion puns if it persists.

Mark June 16, 20148:11 pm

Ogenyi O’NAZI plays for Lazio. Hands up who thought “mmm, apt” when they heard that…

Ted June 16, 20148:11 pm

Ogenyi Onazi was the culprit of the best miss so far, and he injured himself in the process. However, a wee spell on the magical orange stretcher seems to have recharged his batteries.

Ted June 16, 20148:10 pm

Nigeria have started to pepper the Iran area with balls, the type of which could very easily have produced a goal if it weren’t Nigerian strikers on the end of them.

Mark June 16, 20148:09 pm

Azeez and Onazi come close in a goalmouth shemozzle which makes you wonder exactly what it is that Iran are “well-drilled” at.

Ted June 16, 20148:09 pm

Iran at the World Cup is a story of fewer than expected impressive beards. It’s come to something when you’re increasingly likely to get a player with a good beard playing for France than Iran

Mark June 16, 20148:08 pm

Over=protected goalkeepers, episode 94,000

Ted June 16, 20148:07 pm

oi oi oi Marfrig

Mark June 16, 20148:07 pm

A Mexican wave already. Collective IQ of 36 among the neutrals in this crowd.

Mark June 16, 20148:05 pm

A shot which gives Alireza Haghighi the clichéd “early feel of the ball.”

Ted June 16, 20148:04 pm

This match has real promise to be the first goalless contest at the 2014 World Cup, so it’s heartening to see that Victor Moses, who was goal-shy Nigeria’s top scorer in qualifying (with 2), test Haghighi within 3 minutes. It was a fairly elementary test, but nevertheless a positive sign.

Mark June 16, 20148:01 pm

To paraphrase an old “When Saturday Comes” joke, this is the first time a football team has lined-up with a Godfrey, two Victors and a Kenneth since about 1927

Ted June 16, 20148:00 pm

Remember: someone, somewhere’s actual job was to film all 736 players at the World Cup looking up at the camera and folding their arms.

Mark June 16, 20147:57 pm

Ah, Nigeria’s national anthem – a song to leave “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in your head until half-time at least…

Ted June 16, 20147:54 pm

I should also point out that my seven-year old niece got Nigeria in her class at school’s World Cup sweepstake. The prize: 200 Benny Hedges.

Mark June 16, 20147:53 pm

Also, the sight of Ashkan Dejageh in the Iranian line-up adds to the minor mystery of Fulham’s relegation last season.

Mark June 16, 20147:51 pm

Evening all. Having, just, stopped laughing at Pepe’s sending-off for Portugal against Germany, here comes Iran v Nigeria. “And we’re STILL waiting for the first 0-0 draw of the World Cup,” ‘they’ say. They also say it will be this game, which doesn’t quite sit with the general view that second place in this, Argentina’s, group, is between Bosnia and Nigeria.
Was interesting to hear Rio Ferdinand and Phil Neville talk about Carlos Queiroz, Iran’s manager, and his role at Old Trafford, which seemed to minimise the contribution of the ruddy-faced Scot who chose David Moyes as his successor. Mmmm.
So, Nigeria. Super Eagles, or Mediocre Pigeons? We may soon see.

Ted June 16, 20147:51 pm

Nigeria are much better known to European viewers, increasingly drawing heavily on the children of Nigerian migrants to Europe for their players. They’ve got a solid team but not much in the way of stand-out talent, especially where scoring goals is concerned. Peter Odemwinge is the squad’s top international goalscorer, but he only has 10 goals to his name in over 60 caps. Unlike the majority of teams at the World Cup, however, Nigeria are not spoilt for choice in the centre forward department, having taken a large selection to Brazil. And if all else fails, they have Shola Ameobi to turn to.

Ted June 16, 20147:48 pm

Good evening sports fans, welcome to Why The World Cup Is So Great. There’s no other possible reason that someone in Britain could end up watching Nigeria play Iran at football. There’s no real reason why Nigeria would end up playing Iran at football other than this, either. Perhaps tonight’s match will prove once and for all why it’s not a good idea.

Iran are the great unknowns of the tournament, their national football is, predictably, tightly controlled by their ministries. But they’re managed by Carlos Queiroz and will no doubt go about their task with some gusto. Their three key players are the captain, Nekounam (also the squad’s top scorer, most capped player and their top scorer in qualifying), playmaker Dejakah of Fulham and a prolific centre forward called Reza Ghoochannejhad.