Nigeria (0-0-0) vs. Iran (0-0-0), 3 p.m. (ET)
06/16/2014 10:50 AM
06/16/2014 10:54 AM
Curitiba, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Nigeria will attempt to get its World Cup campaign off to a positive start on Monday with a crucial Group F match against Iran at the Arena de Baixada.
After a poor showing at the 2010 World Cup in which Nigeria finished at the bottom of its group, the Super Eagles will aim for more consistent performances this time around.
Africa's most heavily-populated nation reached the second round in its first World Cup in 1994 in the United States, and repeated the feat four years later in France.
But they tripped up in the next two competitions, finishing fourth in their group in South Korea and Japan in 2002 and then missing the tournament altogether in 2006 in Germany.
The Super Eagles have an opportunity this year to become the first African nation to reach the knockout round on three separate occasions. It will be a significant challenge in a group that contains Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina.
But the schedule was kind to Nigeria as they open with a prime opportunity to get three points against Iran.
The side's two most influential players both come from the Premier League in Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel and forward Victor Moses, who spent last season playing sparingly at Liverpool.
Mikel is used in a defensive role at Chelsea, but occupies a more attack space with his country. The 2013 Nigerian Sportsman of the Year has shown significant offensive flair for the Super Eagles and possesses deadly-accurate set-piece ability.
Moses is a versatile winger who has pace down the left side and has shown an ability to cut inside and score from the edge of the area. Form may be a question, however, as Moses made just 19 appearances for the Reds while scoring one goal.
Leading the line will be Fenerbahce forward Emmanuel Emenike, who seems to be realizing his vast potentially at the perfect time. He scored a brace in a 2-0 win over Ethiopia on Nov. 16 to secure a berth in this year's competition.
Iran, meanwhile, will make its fourth appearance in the World Cup hoping to survive the group stage for the first time.
Iran is led by midfielder and captain Javad Nekounam, who is the country's longest-serving player with 135 appearances over a 13-year stretch.
Nekounam will play in his second World Cup after appearing in Germany. The deep-lying playmaker became the first Iranian to play in La Liga when he joined Osasuna following the 2006 tournament.
Charlton Athletic forward Reza Ghoochannejhad will lead the forward line, having joined up with his birth nation in 2012. He scored seven goals for the side in his first nine appearances and could be the key to Iran's hopes.
Both teams will feel they can take three points from what is the most winnable match of the group for either side.
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