In keeping with football’s reputation as the global game, Group F throws together four teams from four different continents. South Americans Argentina are the clear favourites and with Lionel Messi looking to finally make an impact at a World Cup the men in powder blue and white could be dangerous on Brazilian soil. Nigeria represent Africa in Group F, while Europeans Bosnia & Herzegovina and Asia’s Iran make up the four teams who will battle it out to make it through to the knockout stages.
Best Finish – Winners (1978, 1986)
Odds – 4/1
Is this the tournament where Lionel Messi finally shines on the international scene to the same extreme that he’s done throughout his decorated club career? As good as the rest of the Argentina squad are, and they’re good enough to be able to leave Carlos Tevez at home, the South American’s ability to win the World Cup will almost certainly hinge on the form of the little maestro Messi. His fellow countryman Diego Maradona once led the Argentines to the trophy almost single-handedly and if Messi wants to be placed in the same pantheon of player then an other-worldly tournament is essential.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Best Finish – First Appearance
Odds – 150/1
Bosnia & Herzegovina make their first appearance at a World Cup finals in Brazil, and the Eastern Europeans stand an excellent chance of making it out of their group at the first attempt. The nation was created when it split from Yugoslavia back in the early 1990’s and it finally gets the chance to make an impression on the global stage after a couple of near misses in qualification over the past decade or so. Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko is the star man for Bosnia and his record of 35 goals for the national team is an impressive haul from just 62 games. Dzeko’s prowess in the air makes him a difficult target to defend and if he can trouble the scorers in Brazil this month Bosnia might just make it out of Group F alongside Argentina.
Best Finish – First Round (1978, 1998, 2006)
Odds – 2500/1
Iran make a return to the World Cup stage after an absence of eight years, although they’ll know that realistically they stand little to no chance of progressing to the last 16 – something they have also failed to do in their past three appearances at the finals. Iran are led by former Real Madrid manager and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz and the Portuguese’s experience will be of great benefit to his relatively inexperienced squad. On the playing side of things 33-year old captain Javad Nekounam will attempt to lead from the front, the midfielder having accumulated an incredible 140 caps for his country during his career.
Best Finish – Last 16 (1994, 1998)
Odds – 250/1
This isn’t the first time Nigeria have been paired with Argentina in a World Cup group; some of you will recall 2002 when the pair were joined by England and Sweden in that year’s infamous “Group of Death” in Japan and South Korea. Nigeria failed to qualify from that group and with an arguably weaker squad 12 years on they could struggle to make the knockout stages once again in Brazil. Nigeria have a heavy presence in the Premier League and Stoke City’s Peter Odemwingie will attempt to lead the line and build on his 61 caps and 10 goals for his country. John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are also recognisable names but Nigeria lack the star power of fellow African nations such as Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, so it figures that they’ll rely more on teamwork than individual quality this summer.
Argentina v Bosnia – 15th June, Rio De Janeiro (23.00 GMT)
Iran v Nigeria – 16th June, Curitiba (20.00 GMT)
Argentina v Iran – 21st June, Belo Horizonte (17.00 GMT)
Nigeria v Bosnia – 21st June, Cuiaba (23.00 GMT)
Nigeria v Argentina – 25th June, Porto Alegre (17.00 GMT)
Bosnia v Iran – 25th June, Salvador (17.00 GMT)
Who do you think will make it out of Group F? Can Lionel Messi inspire Argentina to a World Cup win? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley