World Cup guide: Group F

  • By: Nick Hext and Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: June 14 2014, 23:18 BST

Nick Hext and Ben Coley preview World Cup Group F - one in which Argentina look the class outfit.

Lionel Messi: Can he be the star of this World Cup?
Lionel Messi: Can he be the star of this World Cup?

You can find guides to all the other groups as well as all the rest of our previews and features here, including our outright and top goalscorer tips.


ARGENTINA (NH)


Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 4/1
To win group: 2/9
To qualify: 1/66

Full squad: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys), Enzo Perez (Benfica), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St Germain).

Manager: Alejandro Sabella

World Cup record: Two-time winners (1978, 1986), runners-up (1930, 1990), quarter-finals (1966, 1998, 2006, 2010)

How they qualified (most recent first): Argentina finished top of the South American qualifying section, winning nine, drawing five and losing just two of their 16 matches.

v Uruguay (away) 2-3 (HT 2-2) - Rodriguez 14, 41
v Peru (home) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Lavezzi 23, 34, Palacio 47
v Paraguay (away) 5-2 (HT 2-1) Messi 12, 52, Aguero 32, Di Maria 49, Rodriguez 90
v Ecuador (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Aguero 4
v Colombia (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Bolivia (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Banega 44
v Venezuela (home) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Higuain 29, 59, Messi 43
v Chile (away) 2-1 (HT 2-0) Messi 28, Higuain 31
v Uruguay (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Messi 65, 79, Higuain 74
v Peru (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Higuain (37)
v Paraguay (home) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Di Maria 3, Higuain 30, Messi 64
v Ecuador (home) 4-0 (HT 3-0) Aguero 19, Higuain 29, Messi 31, Di Maria 76
v Colombia (away) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Messi 60, Aguero 83
v Bolivia (home) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Lavezzi 60
v Venezuela (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Chile (home) 4-1 (HT 2-0) Higuain 7, 52, 63, Messi 25

Goalscorers: Ten-goal Lionel Messi was second to Luis Suarez in the top goalscorer list for the South American qualifying section. Gonzalo Higuain was just one goal behind with nine and Sergio Aguero bagged five.

Half-time/full-time: Argentina were behind at half-time in just one of their 16 qualifiers but they came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in Colombia. Eight of the matches were level at the break - four 0-0, three 1-1 and one 2-2. Argentina won all seven games in which they led at half-time.

Clean sheets: Argentina only kept a clean sheet in four of their 16 qualifiers so that's clearly a concern heading to Brazil with attack the side's strong suit.

Win to nil: Three of the clean sheets came in wins to nil.

Cards: Looking at Argentina's final eight qualifiers you can see a mixed bag with regards to their disciplinary record. Half the matches saw them pick up just one yellow card, two games saw just a couple of cautions received. Then comes the but. The matches with Ecuador and Colombia - that both finished in draws - saw a red card received in each and a loss of discipline with seven bookings accumulated. It could be feast of famine for followers of cards in Argentina's matches.

Other competitive internationals: None since the qualifying campaign began.

Build-up (most recent 1st): Argentina are unbeaten since qualifying ended and haven't conceded in their five friendlies.

v Slovenia (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Alvarez 12, Messi 76
v Trinidad & Tobago (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Palacio 45, Mascherano 51, Rodriguez 65
v Romania (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Bosnia-Herzegovina (neutral) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Aguero 40, 66
v Ecuador (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

Team verdict: There is rightly lots of optimism about Argentina's chances of World Cup glory and I'm certain they will be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this summer.

Any starting XI that contains Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero is sure to cause defences problems and get fans off the edge of their seats.

It's well known Messi hasn't lit up football's biggest stage yet but his run of 20 goals in his previous 21 games for Argentina (up to the 0-0 friendly draw with Romania) shows his Barcelona form is being reproduced at international level.

All opposition managers know of Messi's qualities but there's much, much more they need to be wary of.

My player to watch in the Argentina line-up is Gonzalo Higuain.

He was second top scorer in the South American qualifying section with nine goals (one behind Messi) and enters the World Cup on the back of a hugely successful first season in Serie A with Napoli.

Nick Hext "You can get 7/2 about Higuain being Argentina's top scorer in Brazil - ranking him below Messi and Aguero - and I think that price merits an interest in such a proven operator."
Nick Hext

The major worry is the defence for coach Alejandro Sabella.

Argentina only kept a clean sheet in four of their 16 qualifiers and questions continue to be asked about goalkeeper Sergio Romero heading into the tournament.

Those worries put me off backing Argentina in the outright market but they are rightly one of the favourites and its hard to see them not going far before their defence deficiencies are really tested.

It will also be well worth looking at the both teams to score market throughout the tournament in Argentina's games.

You can get 10/11 for both teams to net in their opener against Bosnia.

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Gonzalo Higuain to be Argentina's top goalscorer at 7/2 - offers value and is certain to get chances.


BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (NH)


Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 150/1
To win group: 7/1
To qualify: 4/5

Full squad: Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Jasmin Fejzic (Aalen), Asmir Avdukic (Toronto Raptors), Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Sunjic (Zorya Luhansk), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke), Ognjen Vranjes (Elazigspor), Ermin Bicakcic (Eintracht Braunschweig), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros), Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg), Miralem Pjanic (Roma), Izet Hajrovic (Galatasaray), Haris Medunjanin (Gaziantepspor), Senad Lulic (Lazio), Anel Hadzic (Sturm Graz), Tino-Sven Susic (Hajduk Split), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim), Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhou Renhe), Senijad Ibricic (Erciyespor), Avdija Vrsajevic (Hajduk Split), Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart), Edin Dzeko (Manchester City), Edin Visca (Istanbul Buyuksehir).

Manager: Safet Susic

World Cup record: First-time qualifiers

How they qualified (most recent first): Bosnia finished top of European qualifying Group G courtesy of a better goal difference than second-placed Greece.

v Lithuania (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ibisevic 68
v Liechtenstein (home) 4-1 (HT 4-0) Dzeko 27, 39, Misimovic 34, Ibisevic 38
v Slovakia (away) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Bicakcic 70, Hajrovic 78
v Slovakia (home) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Latvia (away) 5-0 (HT 0-0) Lulic 48, Ibisevic 53, Medunjanin 63, Pjanic 80, Dzeko 82
v Greece (home) 3-1 (HT 2-0) Dzeko 29, 53, Ibisevic 36
v Lithuania (home) 3-0 (HT 3-0) Ibisevic 29, Dzeko 35, Pjanic 41
v Greece (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Latvia (home) 4-1 (HT 2-1) Misimovic 12, 54, Pjanic 44, Dzeko 90+2
v Liechtenstein (away) 8-1 (HT 4-0) Misimovic 26, 31, Ibisevic, 33, 39, 82, Dzeko 46, 64, 80

Goalscorers: The main man in qualifying for Bosnia was Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko with 10 goals. Vedad Ibisevic netted nine and Zvjevdan Misimovic bagged five.

Half-time/full-time: Five of Bosnia's eight wins came from winning positions at half-time. Their one defeat came after being level at 0-0 with Slovakia at the break but the return match saw them recover from a 1-0 half-time deficit to claim victory. Only two of the 10 qualifiers were goalless at the end of the opening period.

Clean sheets: Bosnia kept six clean sheets in their 10 qualifiers. The away clash with Greece was goalless and much of the credit for the impressive rear-guard effort goes to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Win to nil: The other five clean sheets resulted in wins to nil. Slovakia and Liechtenstein (who conceded 12 goals in their two defeats) were the only nations to score two goals in their two clashes with Bosnia.

Cards: Bosnia behaved very well in qualifying with no red cards and only eight bookings accumulated from 10 games. A caution wasn't collected in half of their matches.

Other competitive internationals: None since qualifying began.

Build-up (most recent first): Well beaten by Argentina in November, Bosnia also suffered a disappointing post-qualifying loss to Egypt. However, World Cup qualifiers Ivory Coast and Mexico were seen off in Bosnia's pre-tournament warm-up games.

v Mexico (neutral) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Hajrovic 41
v Ivory Coast (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Dzeko 17, 53
v Egypt (neutral) 0-2 (HT 0-0)
v Argentina (neutral) 0-2 (HT 0-1)

Team verdict: I think Bosnia are going to be one of the success stories of this World Cup.

They have qualified for the tournament for the first time and a spot in Brazil offers a good news story for a country that has been hit by war and continuing troubles.

This is a team for the nation to be proud of and I fully expect Bosnia to pip Nigeria to second in Group F and join Argentina in the last 16.

In the knockout stages Bosnia would then face the winners of Group E - in my view the weakest section with Ecuador, France, Honduras and Switzerland the competitors - so the current odds of 5/1 available for them to be eliminated in the quarter-finals when opposition gets tougher is making appeal to me.

They certainly wouldn't be 5/1 to make it through a clash with any of those four Group E sides when the last 16 match odds are released.

Bosnia have stars in attack - Edin Dzeko, Vedad Ibisevic and Miralem Pjanic the main figures - and their defensive record is also good with six clean sheets in their 10 qualifiers.

Taking a look at Safet Susic's side to concede the fewest goals in Group F at 4/1 is well worth considering. Argentina will top the standings but their defensive record is pretty mediocre.

The Bosnian I would pay closest attention to from a betting perspective is Dzeko.

Nick Hext "Dzeko is 9/2 to be the top goalscorer from Manchester City at the finals - a category that sees Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva as his most realistic rivals."
Nick Hext

You could also go one step further by getting the 14/1 for Dzeko to be the Premier League player with the most goals.

There are question marks because of disrupted campaigns and lingering injuries over rivals like Aguero, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie so there is a big chance for Dzeko to make his mark.

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Edin Dzeko to be the top goalscorer from Man City at the World Cup at 9/2 - great scoring record in qualifying and a long run in the tournament will give the striker the chance to take this prize.


IRAN (NH)


Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 2500/1
To win group: 25/1
To qualify: 9/2

Full squad: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan), Hossein Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir-Hossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal), Mehrdad Pouladi (Persepolis), Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan), Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham), Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton), Karim Ansarifard (Tractor Saz, on loan from Persepolis), Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal).

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

World Cup record: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006)

How they qualified (most recent first): Iran had to make it through three stages of the Asian qualifying set-up. Their spot in the finals was secured with a famous 1-0 win in South Korea in the final match of their fourth-round group campaign.

v South Korea (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ghoochannejhad 60
v Lebanon (home) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Khalatbari 39, Nekounam 45+1, 86, Ghoochannejhad 46
v Qatar (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ghoochannejhad 66
v Uzbekistan (home) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v South Korea (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Nekounam 76
v Lebanon (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Qatar (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Uzbekistan (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Khalatbari 90+3
v Qatar (home) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Dejagah 4, 50
v Indonesia (away) 4-1 (HT 3-1) Meydavoudi 7, Jabbari 21, Rezaei 25, Nekounam 73
v Bahrain (away) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Jabbari 90+2
v Bahrain (home) 6-0 (HT 3-0) Hosseini 22, Jabbari 34, Aghily 42, Teymourian 61, Ansarifard 75, Rezaei 83
v Qatar (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Aghily 46
v Indonesia (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Nekounam 53, 74, Teymourian 87
v Maldives (away) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Khalatbari 45+1
v Maldives (home) 4-0 (HT 1-0) Ansarifard 4, 62, Karimi 67, Daghighi 86

Goalscorers: Javad Nekounam scored four goals in as Iran finished top of Group E in the third round of the qualification journey. Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejhad netted three goals in the crucial final three qualifiers, including the winner in the final clash against South Korea to secure top spot. He's also been among the goals in the recent Asian Cup qualifiers.

Half-time/full-time: Five of Iran's eight games in the third round of qualifying were goalless at the break.

Clean sheets: Defence was clearly Iran's strength in the final round of qualifying. Six clean sheets were kept in the eight games with no team scoring more than one goal in a game against them.

Win to nil: Five of those clean sheets resulted in wins to nil, including the crucial three victories in a row to secure their place in Brazil.

Cards: Iran picked up 12 bookings in their final eight qualifiers with two of those cautions resulting in a red card in the game at home to South Korea.

Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Iran spent from February 2013 to March of this year involved in the qualifying event to reach next year's Asian Cup in Australia. They negotiated their group with flying colours, topping it with five wins and a draw from their six games.

v Kuwait (home) 3-2 (HT 1-1) Karimi 2, Fudhel OG 61, Ansarifard 90+1
v Lebanon (away) 4-1 (HT 1-0) Sadeghi 39, Dejagah 51, Nekounam 55, Ghoochannejhad 65
v Thailand (away) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Dejagah 28, Ghoochannejhad 42, Jahanbakhsh 90+5
v Thailand (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Hosseini 67, Ghoochannejhad 70
v Kuwait (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Shojaei 45
v Lebanon (home) 5-0 (HT 2-0) Ghoochannejhad 26, 62, Nekounam 45+1, 61, 80

Build-up (most recent 1st): After four games without a win since qualifying, Iran did manage to get a result against Trinidad and Tobago on their final game before Brazil 2014.

v Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 (HT 1-0) Hajsafi 45+1, Ghoochannejhad 54
v Angola (neutral) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Ansarifard 57
v Montenegro (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0
v Belarus (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Guinea (home) 1-2 (HT 0-2) Ghoochannejhad 55

Team verdict: Iran enter the World Cup as underdogs in Group F and it's hard to see anything but an early exit.

It's almost a year since a memorable triumph against South Korea booked their spot in Brazil and since then domestic issues have caused problems.

There was a 119-day gap between their final qualifier and next match with overseas training camps also cancelled to further increase coach Carlos Queiroz's worries.

Iran shouldn't be the victim of a string of heavy defeats but a failure to get anything from their opener against Nigeria would leave a campaign of three losses looking likely. There is 12/5 available for Iran to finish with no points.

Defence was the strength during qualifying and that provides hope. Unfortunately there is a big step up in class for the finals.

There could be an interest in the Iran top goalscorer market. Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejhad scored crucial goals to secure qualification and is 4/1 to lead the team's scoring stakes.

However, you can also get 6/1 for no Iran player to score during the tournament and that's my call as the best bet given a lack of talent in midfield and Ghoochannejhad looking like the only attacking threat.

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Iran to score no World Cup goals at 6/1 - not much attacking talent on show and a tough tournament on the cards.


NIGERIA (BC)


Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 300/1
To win group: 9/1
To qualify: 6/4

Full squad: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC), Joseph Yobo (Norwich City), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Gabriel Reuben (Beveren), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce), Peter Odemwingie, (Stoke City), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen), Babatunde Michael (Volyn).

Manager: Stephen Keshi

World Cup record: Last 16 (1994, 1998), group stage (2002, 2010)

How they qualified (most recent first): Beat Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate having previously won a qualifying group featuring Malawi, Kenya and Namibia.

v Ethiopia (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Moses 20, Obinna 81
v Ethiopia (away) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Emenike 67, 90
v Malawi (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Emenike 45+1 Moses 50
v Namibia (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Oboabona 82
v Kenya (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Musa 80
v Kenya (home) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Oduamadi 90+4
v Malawi (away) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Egqueke 89
v Namibia (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Uche 80

Goalscorers: Emmanuel Emenike scored three goals, two of which came in the two-legged qualifier against Ethiopia. Victor Moses scored twice.

Half-time/full-time: Just one of Nigeria's three group games saw them lead at half-time, while their second-leg victory over Ethiopia followed suit. Therefore, three of five wins overall saw them go into the break level. Two of their three draws had been level at the break; in the other, they came from a goal down.

Clean sheets: Nigeria kept four clean sheets in eight matches at a ratio of 50 per cent. Not once did they concede more than a goal and this leads to a telling statistic: seven of their eight matches featured under 2.5 goals.

Win to nil: Four of Nigeria's six wins were to nil.

Cards: Nigeria's eight games saw a total of nine cards awarded, all of which were yellow.

Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Nigeria won the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in early 2013. Games for this year's African Nations Championship - in which Nigeria finished third - have been deliberately omitted as that tournament features only players involved in the countries' domestic leagues and therefore lack relevance.

v Burkina Faso (neutral) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Mba 40
v Mali (neutral) 4-1 (HT 3-0) Echiejile 25, Ideye 30, Emenike 44, Musa 60
v Ivory Coast (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Emenike 43, Mba 78
v Ethiopia (neutral) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Moses 80, 90
v Zambia (neutral) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Emenike 57
v Burkina Faso (neutral) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Emenike 23

Build-up (most recent first): Since qualifying for the World Cup, Nigeria have held fellow qualifiers Italy, Mexico and Greece in friendlies, proving how hard they are to beat.

v United States (away) 1-2 (HT 0-1) Moses 86p
v Greece (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Scotland (neutral) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Uchebo 41, Nwofor 90
v Italy (neutral) 2-2 (HT 2-1) Dike 35, Ameobi 39
v Mexico (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

Team verdict: Nigeria are a hard side to weigh up.

On the one hand, the winners of the Africa Cup of Nations look to have the requisite experience and favourable draw to reach the knockout stages, but on the other they're short of standout quality and lack the potential match-winners of Bosnia, with whom they will surely battle for the Group F runner-up spot behind Argentina.

Chelsea's John Obi Mikel is the star man and will relish this opportunity having been ruled out of the last World Cup with a setback, but when Shola Ameobi is among the options up front you can see where the Super Eagles may struggle.

Those attacking issues showed up in qualifying, where Nigeria had an easy draw but needed to come through a two-legged play-off with Ethiopia. Seven of their eight games before that featured under 2.5 goals and they simply struggle to create chances like the sides who gained so much popularity in the 1990s.

With that in mind, it's somewhat difficult to see them overcoming Bosnia but in their favour is an opening clash with Iran, one which comes with pressure attached but could allow them an opportunity to build confidence before the Bosnia game.

Stephen Keshi's side carry with them confidence, confidence only enhanced by this draw, but their luck may be about to run out.

Best bet (with Sky Bet): Nigeria to score under 3.5 goals at 4/6 - struggled to find the net in qualifying and could well be tight and tense when they play Bosnia in Curitiba.


GROUP VERDICT


Argentina should really make simple work of this group and may well score plenty along the way.

It's how to get with them that matters to us and backing Gonzalo Higuain in the team top scorer market looks the way to go.

He's behind both Messi and Aguero in the betting but bagged nine in qualifying - just one goal less than Messi - and has enjoyed a goal season at Napoli.

At the last World Cup he grabbed three in a similarly-weak group in 2010 and looks sure to get chances in what is an attack-minded team.

The other sides will fight it out for second spot but it is Bosnia who look most likely to reach the last 16. They impressed in qualifying and as long as they do not freeze on the big stage they have enough in their locker to see off Nigeria and Iran.

Edin Dzeko is their star man and having finished the English season so well, he's worth an interest in the top Man City scorer market at 9/2.

The Argentina-Bosnia straight forecast is also worth considering at 5/4.

  • Odds correct as of June 4.


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