World Cup

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Toothless Nigeria held to goalless stalemate by dogged Iran

Published 16/06/2014 | 22:09

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Nigeria's Shola Ameobi (R) fights for the ball with Iran's Amir-Hossein Sadeghi during their 2014 World Cup F soccer match at the Baixada arena in Curitiba June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero (BRAZIL  - Tags: SOCCER SPORT WORLD CUP)
Nigeria's Shola Ameobi (R) fights for the ball with Iran's Amir-Hossein Sadeghi
Nigeria's Mikel John Obi, right, holds off Iran's Ashkan Dejagah during the group F World Cup soccer match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Nigeria's Mikel John Obi, right, holds off Iran's Ashkan Dejagah during the group F World Cup soccer match between Iran and Nigeria
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 16: Emmanuel Emenike of Nigeria lies on the field after a challenge during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Iran and Nigeria at Arena da Baixada on June 16, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Emmanuel Emenike of Nigeria lies on the field after a challenge during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Iran and Nigeria

Nigeria's attacking threat fell flat as they were held to the first goalless draw of the 2014 World Cup in their Group F clash with Iran in Curitiba.

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Stephen Keshi's men started with Barclays Premier League stars including John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses but produced a performance riddled with errors and few clear-cut chances.

The Iranians, starting their fourth World Cup as one of the least fancied of all the finalists, arguably had the best chance when Reza Ghoochannejhad brought a fine save out of Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama in the 33rd minute.

Until that point the Africans had dominated possession but were hampered by a woeful final ball which kept their clear-cut chances to a minimum.

Moses had Nigeria's first chance in the third minute when he hit a poor shot at inexperienced Iranian keeper Reza Haghighi.

Haghighi looked uncomfortable when pressured by the Nigerian front men and was lucky to escape in the seventh minute after flapping at a corner.

The ball dropped to Kenneth Omeruo who poked the ball in the net but the referee had already blown for a foul on the keeper by Mikel.

Emmanuel Emenike was having some success down the Nigerian left with Iranian right-back Pejhman Montazeri struggling to contain the speed of the Fenerbahce striker.

Ahmed Musa tried to cut a clever free-kick inside Haghighi's left-hand post from a long-range free-kick in the 31st minute but the Nigerians' lack of cutting edge began to instill the Iranians with confidence.

And their big chance came in the 33rd minute when Ghoochannejhad met an Ashkan Dejagah corner with a header which brought an excellent reflect save out of Enyeama.

Iran continued to grow in confidence early in the second half when Ghoochannejhad screwed a long-range shot wide of target.

But it had developed into a largely dismal affair with neither side looking capable of challenging Group F rivals Argentina or Bosnia.

Former Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi replaced Moses after 52 minutes and immediately came close to connecting with a cross from the left by Aziz.

And after Ogenyi Onazi drilled a low shot straight at Haghighi, the Nigerians came close to grabbing a scarcely deserved victory in the final minute.

Ameobi met a Juwon Oshaniwa cross with an effort which was superbly intercepted by Mehrdad Poolani, then the same player blocked an Ameobi header before the final whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos.

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