Group F will feature one match that has become something of a classic fixture of and five that have never been played on the big stage before, part of the reason for which is because Bosnia-Herzegovina are making their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup™, while Iran have only ever faced their group rivals in friendlies.
As for Argentina and Nigeria, the other two combatants in the group, there is not much they do not know about each other. Their meeting next June will be the latest instalment in an exciting rivalry between the two sides, led by Lionel Messi and John Obi Mikel, who have faced off three times in major competitions at different age levels: the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005, the gold medal match at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 and in the group phase at South Africa 2010. On all three occasions Argentina won. Bosnia-Herzegovina, who played their first official match as an independent national team in November 1995, came close to making their World Cup debut at South Africa 2010 but lost out in the play-offs to Portugal.
After a 4-1 win against Chile to begin their FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign, Argentina then stumbled against Venezuela and drew 1-1 at home to Bolivia, which raised doubts as to whether coach Alejandro Sabella, who took over after Copa America 2011, was up to the task. La Albiceleste, however, got back on track with 2-1 win over Colombia in Barranquilla.
Bosnia-Herzegovina had an outstanding campaign, winning eight of their ten matches, drawing and losing just once. A ruthless attack and resilient rearguard were the cornerstones of the side’s success, with the 30 goals scored representing the fourth-highest tally in European zone qualifying. Equally impressive was a defence that was breached just six times.
Under former Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz’s watch, Iran opened the preliminary competition brightly, scoring five unanswered goals past Maldives to progress. And Team Melli were met with little challenge in the next phase, maintaining their undefeated run as they finished section winners with three wins and three draws.
Drawn in Group F with Malawi, Kenya and Namibia, the Nigerians were always massive favourites to reach the final play-off round of qualifying, and they did not lose any matches in the group stage. They did draw three times, once against each opponent, with the most worrying result a 1-1 at home to Kenya when only a second half injury time goal by Nnamdi Oduamadi won the point.
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