World Cup Preview: Group F

Argentina did not need help to survive the group stage. They received it in the form of this draw.

Argentina: This is a squad so talented in attack that Carlos Tevez was left off and it doesn’t feel too large an exclusion. Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Rodrigo Palacio are Argentina’s strikers, and it’s almost a shame they can’t all play at once. For good measure, Angel Di Maria is in their midfield. It’s an absurd collection of talent, but it only covers half of the pitch. In this group, defensive frailties won’t bother them, but the back line will have to step up if Argentina is to fulfill its trophy-lifting potential.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: This is the first major tournament for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country which emerged from Yugoslavia the tumult of the 1990s. But that isn’t reason to take them lightly. Edin Dzeko is often secondary to other attacking talent for Manchester City, but for his country he is expected to be the primary goal-scorer. The service he receives will not be what he is used to, but there is enough talent on this team regardless to reach the quarterfinals if they play at their best.

Nigeria: Nigeria were dreadful last weekend in a friendly against the USMNT. They are, on paper, not one of the two best teams in this group, and they have been notorious for intra-squad struggle in recent years. But in a group where Argentina will be expected to take 9 points, an additional Bosnian mistake could see Nigeria through to the knockout stage.

Iran: Iran is a distant fourth in this group, and their hopes of getting a point might rest on Nigerian collapse. Of note, however, is Steven Beitashour, who, if he gets on the pitch, will be  the first American born-and-raised player to appear in a World Cup for another country. The former San Jose Earthquakes fullback was born in San Jose to Iranian parents, and seeing that his chances of playing for the U.S. were slim, opted last year to switch to Iran.

Key Player: Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

Emenike is not the most talented player in this group; that honor of course belongs to Messi. But in a group where Argentina’s advancement seems guaranteed, Nigeria’s speedy striker may have the most say in how the rest of the group turns out. He led his country in goals during qualifying, and he may have to lead them through this group.

What will happen: Nigeria is a better team than they showed against the U.S. But they aren’t better than Bosnia, and I expect the Europeans to advance. Iran will finish fourth.

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