Iran could advance to the Round of 16 for the first time, but must defeat an already-eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina side seeking some pride after its first World Cup letdown.
The Group F match takes place Wednesday at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
Coming off a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Argentina, Carlos Queiroz’s side needs its second all-time win in the World Cup, and for Nigeria to lose by two goals to Lionel Messi and company in order to advance. Iran’s last and only victory was back in 1998, and they’ll need far more from their attack than the zero they’ve notched so far.
For first-time qualifiers, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s run could be called a success simply for reaching this far, but for a side that’s managed only two goals with such creative offensive talent like Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic much more was expected of the Dragons.
In their two losses, Safet Susic’s side didn’t seem like the same group that ripped off 30 goals en route to eight victories during the qualifying round. Though low scoring is a trend for Group F, with only five goals scored between all five teams, by far the lowest of any this year in a Cup known for its comebacks and plenty of goals.
Dzeko, Pjanic and midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic face a stiff test against Iran, a team that held the likes of Messi, Gonzalo Higuiin and Sergio Aguero scoreless right up until a deep, left-footed strike in added time.
With very little help from his attack, Iran goalkeeper Alirez Haghighi has totaled eight saves and faced 17 corner kicks only to surrender one goal in two matches. Enough can’t be said for the 26-year-old who’s made only 10 career senior-team starts, but he has had some excellent help with defenders Jalal Hoesseini and Hossein Sadeghi leading the backline.
With Iran already proving its defensive prowess, it’s up to the attack to get them out of the group stage. Fulham winger Ashkan Dejagah has been quiet thus far, and so has team captain and midfielder Javad Nekounam, who’s scored 27 goals in 142 appearances for Iran.
Start Time: Wednesday, 12 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting Odds: (bovada.lv)
Over/Under: 2.5 goals
Prediction: Iran 1-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina