CURITIBA, Brazil- Iran managed to grab a point in the first match of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil against Nigeria. Carlos Queiroz’s men presented a defensive performance against the African powerhouse.
In the first 20 minutes, Nigeria was the better team with Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses combining to cause problems for the defensively-minded Iran side.
The best chance for the African Champion was in the 7th minute when an Ahmed Musa goal was disallowed after John Obi Mikel was adjudged to have fouled Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi at a corner.
As the game progressed Iran got better and they came close to scoring in the 34th minute when Reza Ghoochannejhad header saved by Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
In the second half there was not much goal scoring opportunities on the goals and neither goalkeeper was in trouble, our correspondent in Curitiba reported.
The draw at the Arena da Baixada in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba followed 12 mostly high scoring and attacking games.
This was the first time that Iran managed to kept a clean sheet in a World Cup match. In the all previous World Cup matches in 1978, 1998 and 2006 Iran concede goals.
Nigeria’s star John Obi Mikel who plays for Chelsea in the Premier League disappointed after this draw. “We are very disappointed because the opening match is very important. We looked for the win, but Iran knew what we wanted to do and put 11 men behind the ball. They managed to stop us from playing our game. We’ll have to create more chances in our next match and be sharp in front of goal.” Mikel said.
Nigeria have now failed to win any of their last nine World Cup matches, extending the longest winless run of any team taking part in this tournament.
Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi was disappointed that his players could not translate their dominance into goals. He admitted: “The boys were nervous and unsettled - you don't do that at this stage. It happens in football. We really didn't perform as expected but we have to move on. I wanted a win but we must take a draw. We must do better to get a win against Bosnia.”
On the other hand Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz hailed his players after the draw against Nigeria, He is convinced his side still have a chance in a group which also includes Argentina and Bosnia.
Queiroz said: “I am very happy but it was very difficult, we played against a great team and it was necessary to play a realistic game. I think we did well, we fought for every ball and every space, and we played 90 minutes with one thing on our mind - the first opportunity to score.
“It was a game that I need to praise my players, they deserve to be congratulated. We kept the team in the tournament and now we have Argentina. The most important thing is that everything is open for us.”
While admitting that his team can get better in front of goal, Iran’s captain Javad Nekounam believes that a draw was a good result for Iran.
"We could have snatched a win in the last 20 minutes, but we lacked the finishing touch. I think that's the area we need to improve in," the midfielder told Tehrantimes.
"When you consider that a lot of our players were making their World Cup debuts, it's been a very good day for us."
Iran will continue its campaign on Saturday when the team play Argentina in Belo Horizonte while Nigeria will face Bosnia & Herzegovina on the same day in Cuiaba.
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