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World Cup Preview: Group F Breakdown

by Photo of Matthew Golda

Messi looking to lead Argentina to top of Group F; Nigeria lurking, Iran hoping.

World Cup Preview: Group F Breakdown

Group Standings

1) Argentina: 6 points, +2 goal differential, 2-0-0

2) Nigeria: 4 points, +1 goal differential, 1-1-0

3) Iran: 1 point, - 1 goal differential, 0-1-1

4) Bosnia-Herzegovina: 0 points, - 2 goal differential, 0-0-2

Final Matches

Argentina vs Nigeria, 12 PM ET, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Iran vs Bosnia-Herzegovina, 12 PM ET, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil

What's At Stake

There isn't a player in the world under more pressure this World Cup than Lionel Messi. No, these games are not technically on home soil for him, but playing on South American soil is close enough for the best player in the world. Honestly, this 2014 World Cup could have been anywhere in the world and Messi would still have the most pressure on him. At 28, Messi is primed for a big World Cup. His first two have been subpar, even though his team has made the quarterfinals in each of his previous two trips. However, he only scored one career World Cup goal heading into 2014. He scored that lone goal in 2006 in a 6-0 blowout against Serbia and Montenegro. Hardly anything to boast about.

Then we enter 2014 and Messi has put the ball in the net twice, both crucial goals for Argentina. In their first game against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Messi dazzled as he skipped across the top of the box and ripped a scorcher of a shot in the 65th minute, giving Argentina a 2-0 lead. That goal proved to be the game-winner, as Bosnia-Herzegovina made it 2-1. However, he topped that by scoring an injury-time winner against Iran, giving the Argentines a 1-0 victory:

Just a perfect strike by Messi. Can't do it any better. And give Iran credit, they played Argentina tough.

However, Messi's game seems to be far from perfect. He has forced play at times, which is uncharacteristic of him. Messi is good enough to dictate the pace of play, but he's been taking erratic shots and not looking for his teammates as much. Messi is a great goalscorer, but his greatest attribute is his ball distribution. Look for Messi's play to elevate as this tournament progresses. Argentina only needs a draw against Nigeria to top the group.

Enough about Argentina and Messi and onto the other teams in this group, except for Bosnia-Herzegovina. They're out. Their first World Cup appearance was a short-lived one. Nigeria is the next most likely team to advance. For them to win the group, they need to beat Argentina, which may be too tall a task. However, they only need a draw to advance, which is much more manageable. FiveThirtyEight gives the Nigerians an 87.4% chance of advancing. I think they'll take those odds.

Iran, the third team in all this, can still advance, but they need some help. They need to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina and need Nigeria to lose to Argentina. On top of that, Iran needs to make up the goal differential between them and Nigeria, whose differential is +1, compared to Iran's - 1. Iran has yet to score a goal, so it seems unlikely they can muster the offense to make it up (but hey, Greece entered yesterday's game with 0 goals and put 2 in the back of the net). They'll most likely need Argentina to beat Nigeria by a few goals, which also seems ambitious, as Nigeria will most likely be playing for a draw. FiveThirtyEight forecasts Iran's odds of moving on at 12.6%. So you're telling me there's a chance?

Who Will Advance?

Argentina and Nigeria.

Argentina is already through and I like them to top this group, as expected. I expect Nigeria to be the second team to advance from this group. It would be the first time they made it to the round of sixteen since 1998. Could be a nice year for the Super Eagles, who sport some top-notch talent in John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, who are also teammates on Chelsea in the English Premier League. They are the key players for Nigeria moving forward.

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