It took five days and 13 games, but at long last we have seen the first draw of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Group F bottom-feeders Iran and Nigeria opened their tournament schedules with a listless 0-0 draw, for the moment giving them a tie for second place in the group.
THE DROUGHT CONTINUES: Despite appearing in three World Cups since 1998, neither Nigeria nor Iran has managed to win a World Cup game in the 21st century. The draw today continues the winless streak, and with both teams still having to play Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina to round out group play, both teams’ illustrious history of not winning could remain untarnished until at least 2018.
TOOTHLESS: While Iran and Nigeria do have some gifted players in their set-up, they don’t have much in the way of star power. It showed on Monday. Just two of Nigeria’s 29 crosses found their man. Neither team could conjure more than 65 percent passing accuracy in their attacking half. All told, Team Melli and the Super Eagles combined for an incredibly sloppy and wholly toothless performance.
ANSWERING THE CALL: Goalkeepers Alireza Haghighi and Vincent Enyeama didn’t have to do much, but when called upon they rose to the occasion. Haghighi was nearly caught sleeping on a 31st-minute freekick by midfielder Ahmed Musa, but recovered to swat away the ball before it trickled past his near post. Iranian striker Reza Ghoochanejad, meanwhile, had a great opportunity in the 34th minute with a point-blank header in the six-yard box that produced a brilliant reaction save from Enyeama.
WHERE’S STEVEN?: The only MLS player to feature in either squad, Vancouver Whitecaps right back Steven Beitashour, had to watch from the bench as his team muddled through the stalemate with Nigeria. The California-born defender will have to wait at least one more game to realize his dream of playing in the World Cup.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ahmed Musa, Nigeria – Musa didn’t shine particularly brightly in a rather dull game, but he was the most dangerous of anyone on the field. In the land of the blind…