Nigeria 0 Iran 0: Carlos Queiroz defensive masterclass could prove dangerous for Argentina

 

Lionel Messi will know Nigeria’s pain, and could yet feel it again - if this dismal 0-0 with Iran is anything to go by. Back in May 2008, when Iranian manager Carlos Queiroz was assistant at Manchester United, the Portuguese devised the defensive system to specifically stop the Barcelona playmaker in that season’s Champions League semi-final.

It saw the English side through to the final, and that same tactical toughness may yet see the Asians spring other surprises in this tournament.

While this rare 0-0 stood out given the supreme scoring stats of this World Cup, it should not have been a surprise from the qualifying. Queiroz ensured the Asian side enjoyed more clean sheets than any of the other 32 teams in Brazil, while Nigeria were the lowest scorers.

As such, the Iran manager was offering no apologies for a game that was widely derided. Instead, he saw a lot of reasons for pride. This is Iran’s best ever start to a World Cup, given that they lost their previous three opening games.

"I’m very happy but it was very difficult," Queiroz said. "We played against a great team and it was necessary to play a realistic game.

"We fought for every ball, every space and played 90 minutes with one thing in our mind. My players need to be congratulated."

The Curitiba crowd didn’t feel the same way, as the game ended with boos and whistles. That may have been unfair on a Nigerian side who at least tried to attack, but their manager Stephen Keshi did not spare his players.

"The boys were too nervous and unsettled," he said. "You don’t do that at this stage. It happens in football. We really didn’t perform as expected but we have to move on. I wanted a win but must take a draw. We must do better to get a win against Bosnia [and Herzegovina]."

That is perhaps the real negative for both teams, even a proud Iran. They failed to get a victory in what was likely their most winnable game.

That will not quite be Queiroz’s concern against Argentina, however. In that game, this negative approach could prove just as productive. Their manager will at least know where to begin with his instructions. It could end up tilting this group.

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