2014 WORLD CUP SOCCER
Kickoff: Monday, 3:00 p.m. EDT
Arena da Baixada – Curitiba, Brazil
Nigeria +105, Iran +230, Tie +225
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over +165, Under -208)
Group F play of the 2014 World Cup continues on Monday with an all-important matchup for both Iran and Nigeria.
An African nation reached the quarter-finals at two of the past three World Cups and Nigeria are technically the best of the 2014 contingent having won last year’s African Cup of Nations, so it is strange to find them 25th in the winner market betting. One reason is the disruptive behind-the-scenes buffoonery that sees coach Stephen Keshi friendless at executive level despite his success, constantly being undermined. The other is their failure to win a World Cup match yet this century. The Super Eagles unquestionably underperformed in 2002 and 2010 – and didn’t even qualify in 2006. However, this is the first time since their glorious debut in 1994, when they topped a group featuring Argentina and eventual semi-finalists Bulgaria, that they have entered the tournament as African champions.
The schedule has also kindly presented them with the perfect opportunity to scrub away their 21st-century hoodoo by facing un-fancied Iran first. Carlos Queiroz’s side are joint-bottom of the World Cup winner market and aren’t even a major force on their own continent, last lifting the AFC Asian Cup in 1976 and not contesting a single final at nine editions since. Their World Cup record is less flattering still. They have never escaped a group in three attempts, losing six of nine games, and were beaten in their opener each time.
Nigeria will hope that Emmanuel Emenike dominates the group stage as much as at last year’s African Cup of Nations, when he scored first in both of their initial two fixtures. With plus-money to be had, the pick here is for NIGERIA to pick up the victory.