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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group F Picks (June 15-25)

It has been over twenty years since Argentina, the two time former World Cup Winners, have won a major international tournament, but they are considered the second favourite to win this competition. They head up a Group F containing first time qualifiers Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Sunday 15th June
Argentina v Bosnia and Herzegovina Pick: The feeling is that Bosnia and Herzegovina could be the neutral's choice at the World Cup if the manager truly fulfils the promise to go on the attack with a 4-4-2 formation designed to do that.

Safet Susic went as far as to say that he knows that Bosnia can sometimes neglect the defensive side of things in their games and that may be the big problem against this Argentina team in their opening game. While the gambit to attack and score goals is admirable, it might be until the Iran and Nigeria games that Bosnia really can get away with neglecting any aspect of their game.

Argentina are also known more for their attacking aspect rather than the defence and they have four players that should pose problems for any team in the world- Lionel Messi has another chance to really put his name beside Diego Maradona by producing on the biggest stage, and he is ably backed by Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.

It is the suspect defence where Argentina are most vulnerable and that should mean we are given a very entertaining game to open Group F, especially as both teams would fancy their chances of beating the other two teams in the section. The potential is even there to match the six goals scored in the Spain-Netherlands game in Group B, but either way I would think Argentina will have too much firepower in their locker for the Bosnians.

The two World Cups have seen Argentina peak too early by blasting their way through the Group Stage before ultimately falling in the Quarter Final and I am expecting them to at least begin the Group in a similar manner. It gives Argentina a chance to build confidence in a draw that gives them a great chance to reach the Final on enemy territory, and I think they will win this game by a couple of goals at least.

Iran v Nigeria Pick: Carlos Queiroz has always been known for his defensive tactics and that was the case during the last couple of years of the qualifying campaign in Asia as Iran return to the world stage for the first time since 2006.

Out of all the teams at the World Cup, I would be surprised if Iran break that mould and there is every chance that we are going to see the first draw of the World Cup from this game. Iran will be disciplined and well organised which is going to be tough for Nigeria to break down, especially as I feel this is far from a vintage version of their nation.

Nigeria did win the last African Cup of Nations and they qualified for the World Cup comfortably enough, but they did struggle for goals during those qualifiers and I think they could be a caught cold by Iran in this one.

I would have no interest backing Nigeria at odds on to win the game and I do think it will be one that isn't the most exciting game of the tournament to this point. It could be a case of defence versus attack, although Iran may look at the fact that Tahiti scored against Nigeria last year and perhaps fancy sneaking a win to double up the one they had over the United States back in 1998.

In my opinion, one goal may be enough to separate the teams and backing the Under 1.5 Goals could pay off despite the attacking games we have seen to this point.

Argentina got off to a nervy start to their World Cup campaign where anything less than winning the tournament may be treated as a failure, but I think Alejandro Sabella needs to take a portion of the blame. He changed the 4-3-3 formation that had been so successful over the last two years and adopted a 5-3-2 look which produced a tepid first half display.

Going back to 4-3-3 at half time and introducing Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago gave Argentina more impetus and freed up Lionel Messi who scored a superb solo goal to help beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-1.

Bosnia should adopt a more attacking formation in their final two games, especially if Nigeria and Iran are as poor as they were in their opening goalless draw. Neither team looks like having the guile to create a lot of chances, although Iran at least showed their defensive discipline in holding the Nigerians at arms length.

Whether they can do that against the two opponents they have to play will determine whether Iran can perhaps spring a surprise.

Argentina v Iran Pick: The theory is that Alejandro Sabella is a little worried that Argentina will be exposed by the better teams they will meet at the World Cup if they persist with their 4-3-3 formation that produces so much attacking quality, but that is a worry for another day.

Against Iran, Argentina will be expected to entertain and impress and the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain will really test an Iranian backline that won't see that kind of quality on a regular basis.

Iran have nothing to lose in the sense that they can't be knocked out of the World Cup no matter how this game ends, but I still don't expect to see an expansive approach as they look to secure a respectable scoreline. Carlos Queiroz will make sure they are disciplined at the back, but I expect the movement of the front three to be too much for Iran to deal with and can only see Argentina winning by three or four goals at a venue that has produced goals in previous two World Cup games held here.

Nigeria v Bosnia & Herzegovina Pick: I didn't have a lot of hope for Nigeria at the World Cup because I think they are a team that does struggle to score the goals to win games and, despite being the reigning African Cup of Nations winners, I thought they wouldn't get beyond the Group Stage.

The main reason was because of Bosnia & Herzegovina who showed they don't always 'neglect the defensive side' as their manager claimed before the start of the tournament and who put in a strong effort against Argentina in the first game of the Group.

The 2-1 loss means Bosnia start the game in bottom place, but they will likely play two up front in this one and try to get after Nigeria. The Nigerians will have to perform a lot better than they did against Iran when the poor quality in the final third of the pitch really cost them a chance of winning the game and another showing like that will put them in a very awkward position with Argentina left to play.

Nigeria will hope that Argentina won't have anything to play for by that point, but their confidence might be rocked as I am expecting Bosnia to be too good for them and find the goals to win the game.

In each of the last two World Cup tournaments, Argentina have started the event on fire and put in some top Group performances on their way to the Second Round, but both times have seen them beaten in the Quarter Finals by Germany. That is probably the only positive they can take out of their two performances here so far where they have won both games against Bosnia and Iran, but have not looked their best.

Lionel Messi has won both games for Argentina and the comparisons with Diego Maradona, who carried the nation to the 1986 World Cup, have gone into overdrive. However, there is little doubt that he has to help Argentina end their search for a major international tournament to really find himself in that same level as the man who used the 'Hand of God'.

Nigeria's win over Bosnia, albeit a controversial one after an Edin Dzeko 'goal' was wrong disallowed, means they are in pole position to join Argentina in the Second Round as they avoid defeat in this game. If they don't they will need to hope Iran don't beat Bosnia in their game, and there is still the possibility of a random draw separating those two teams for a place in the Second Round.

If Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0 and Iran beat Bosnia 1-0, both Nigeria and Iran will have the exact same record and would mean a 'drawing of lots' to decide the team that moves through to likely play France in the Second Round.

Bosnia & Herzegovina v Iran Pick: There has been a lot of criticism of Safet Susic back in Bosnia for going against his own philosophy in the first two games which has led to the nation being eliminated before the end of the Group Stage.

Susic had set up Bosnia to be a very attacking team during the qualifiers with two up front, but decided against that in the first two games here- it was understandable against Argentina, but failing to do the same against Nigeria meant another defeat sent Bosnia packing.

They have been unfortunate in both games, especially with the Edin Dzeko 'goal' that was disallowed against Nigeria which would have given Bosnia the lead in that game. A couple more missed opportunities from the Manchester City player and it was all over for Bosnia.

There have been suggestions that some of the players are not interested in competing in a 'dead rubber' while others are suggesting Bosnia are going back to their usual formation, but it might not matter against Iran.

The close relationship of the two nations meant Iran were the first team that played Bosnia in a friendly back in 1993, even before FIFA recognised Bosnia & Herzegovina as a sovereign state, and Iran certainly have shown that they can cause a surprise off the back of their first two performances.

Iran's close loss to Argentina was very disappointing considering they arguably had the better chances of the two teams until Lionel Messi scored a cracking winner and Carlos Queiroz was very upset with the referee for not handing Iran a penalty. There is pace in the team in the forward areas and we saw Emir Spahic exposed for pace in the game with Nigeria.

If Bosnia do play a more attacking line up, Iran should enjoy success on the counter and I think they can win their first World Cup game since 1998 and give themselves a chance of moving into the Second Round.

Nigeria v Argentina Pick: This is a difficult situation for Nigeria to be in considering a draw would be enough to move through to the Second Round, but a defeat could open the door for Iran. They will have to defend a lot better than they did against Bosnia in their latest game because the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi are unlikely to be as generous with their missed opportunities in front of goal as Edin Dzeko was.

A 1-0 loss for Nigeria and a 1-0 win for Iran would mean a draw would have to decide which team goes through, but the pressure would certainly build on the Nigerians if they hear Iran have taken an early goal or are a couple of goals in front.

The draw does seem the most convenient result for both teams as Argentina can avoid France in the Second Round and Nigeria would move through, but I do sense the Argentina fans are looking for a big performance as the hosts Brazil were earlier in the week. This is going to be a game packed to the rafters with Argentina fans who see this as a 'home' game and I can't imagine they would be too impressed if Argentina simply 'play out a draw'.

With the forward power that Argentina have, I expect they will be too strong for Nigeria, although they will also have to be aware of the pace and power the Nigerians have up front. We have seen Iran and Bosnia cause some problems for Argentina, but Nigeria might not be able to exploit that immediately as they are caught between attack and defence.

At the end of the game, I would expect Argentina have won this game by at least a couple of goals, while Nigeria will be wondering if Bosnia can do them a favour and at least hold Iran to a draw.

GROUP F PICKS: Argentina - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Bosnia
Iran-Nigeria Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.10 William Hill (1 Unit)
Argentina - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (3 Units) versus Iran
Bosnia & Herzegovina @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Unit) versus Nigeria
Iran @ 3.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit) versus Bosnia & Herzegovina
Argentina - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units) versus Nigeria

Group F Update: 1-3, - 4.9 Units (8 Units Staked, - 61.25% Yield)

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