Argentina's Lionel Messi waves to fans at the end of a World Cup 2014 qualifying soccer match against Venezuela in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, March 22, 2013. Argentina won 3-0.
This is the sixth post in a series previewing the World Cup's eight groups. Read Group A,Group B, Group C, Group D and Group E; then check back Friday for looks at groups G and H.
The 2014 World Cup's Group F is all about Argentina. Seriously — it
almost seems unfair that one of the world's mightiest sides got placed with three relative minnows in the World Cup draw. Missing the knockout stage would be nothing less than an Earth-shattering disappointment for this mega-talented soccer giant. The only remaining question is who else will advance.
But who are the top players to watch from each team? Does anyone stand any chance of taking down Argentina? Who won't even make it out of the group?
All that (and more!) shall be revealed right here in our 10-minute guide to Group F.
The teams (FIFA world ranking in parenthesis)
- Argentina (7)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (25)
- Iran (37)
- Nigeria (44)
As we mentioned above, Argentina is the dominant team here and it's not even close. But here's a more interesting subplot: Superstar forward Lionel Messi is generally regarded as the greatest talent of his generation. Some say he could be the best player ever. But he's never played nearly as well for Argentina as he does for FC Barcelona, the club that convinced him and his father to move to Spain from his native country when the future star was just a young boy.
This is a topic of much consternation for fans of La Albiceleste. Should Messi be able to lead his Argentina to its first title since 1986, however, many pundits will say he's surpassed Pelé as the greatest soccer player of all time. He'll have plenty of support in Brazil from Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Aguero, Ángel di María and others.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, meanwhile, is appearing in its first-ever World Cup this year, after gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Despite top-flight striker Edin Dzeko, anything more than getting out of Group F would be a big surprise for this team. Nigeria hasn't reached the World Cup's knockout stage since 1998, and will be hard-pressed to do so this year. Reaching the knockout stage would be a similar shocker forIran.
The schedule (all times in ET)
- Argentina versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 15, Rio de Janeiro, 6 p.m.
- Iran versus Nigeria, June 16, Curitiba, 3 p.m.
- Argentina versus Iran, June 21, Belo Horizonte, 12 p.m.
- Nigeria versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, Cuiaba, 6 p.m.
- Nigeria versus Argentina, June 25, Porto Alegre, 12 p.m.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Iran, June 25, Salvador, 12 p.m.
4 players to watch
Lionel Messi (Argentina): Sure, he's the obvious choice — but we'd be remiss if we picked any Argentine other than the incomparable, pint-sized scoring machine some call "The Flea." Why? Other than the reasons laid out above, we'll let this 18-minute highlight mix do the talking.
Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The Manchester City star is truly a world-class player, and his countrymen will be counting on him to score plenty of goals if they're to advance in the World Cup. Dzeko's more than capable — he scored 10 of Bosnia and Herzegovina's 30 goals in its 2014 qualifying campaign. Tall and strong, Dzeko can simply overwhelming defenders.
Emmanuel Emenike (Nigeria): Emenike plays professionally for Turkish club Fenerbahçe. If Nigeria is to reach the knockout stage, the physically imposing striker will have to come through big-time.
Javad Nekounam (Iran): Nekounam is a savvy midfielder who first played for the Iranian national team way back in 2000. This will almost certainly be the 33-year-old's last World Cup, so catch him while you can.
Argentina's in; we've already established that and suspect they'll emerge undefeated from Group F. Look for Dzeko to be among the 2014 World Cup's top goal scorers through group play and push Bosnia and Herzegovina through to the knockout stage as well. Sorry, Nigeria and Iran — but them's the breaks.
Tags: World Cup