Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

World Cup Draw 2014: Group F features Argentina as big favorites

Argentina should go through to the knockout stage of the World Cup as Group F winners, but there will be a very tight battle for second place.

Argentina will be thrilled to have gotten off a bit easy with their World Cup draw and will be heavily favored to go through as Group F winners. The battle for second place will be interesting, with three fairly evenly matched teams behind them. This group gets underway on June 15, when Argentina face Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rio de Janeiro.

Favorites: Argentina

More coverage
Lionel Messi and company would have been favorites in any group, but they'll be thrilled with their draw. While there are no weak teams in this World Cup, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran were among the worst teams in their pots, while Nigeria's last couple of years have been a roller-coaster. Fans of the top qualifying team from CONMEBOL will expect them to win all three of their group stage games.

Going through: Bosnia-Herzegovina

After just barely missing out on the last two major tournaments -- they went down in the playoff rounds of World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 qualifying -- Bosnia-Herzegovina are finally in a major final. They're led by striker Edin Dzeko, who is by far their most recognizable player. But they're much more than just him. They've got a deep stable of defenders, some tricky midfielders and some good forward depth behind Dzeko. They'll face tough competition from Nigeria, but they have a bit more firepower.

Out: Nigeria

The Nigerians certainly have an excellent chance of advancing from this group, but it's tough to see their defense containing Bosnia-Herzegovina's forwards. A big factor in whether or not Nigeria can spring a minor upset is if their own forwards come into the World Cup fit and in form. Victor Moses, Brown Ideye and Emmanuel Emenike are very talented, but inconsistent.

Dead Last: Iran

This is about as good of a draw as Iran could have hoped for, and it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could grab four points from Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina. They're a well-organized team that doesn't give up much in midfield, but unfortunately, they just don't have the same high-end talent as their two competitors for second place. It seems more likely that they'll end up with zero points than four, but they're not to be taken lightly.

Best Player: Lionel Messi

A no-brainer, in the case of this group. Messi is arguably the best player in the world and certainly the best player in any group that doesn't include Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery or any of Germany's huge stars. Argentina will be hoping that this is the major tournament where he finally comes up big after he struggled at the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America.

Emerging Star: Ahmed Musa

Musa has become one of CSKA Moscow's best players over the last year and has already gotten himself on the radar of some of Europe's giants. A good World Cup will almost certainly see him subject to bids from the best in Europe's big four leagues. At just 21 years old, he's got a lot of room to get better, but he's already made his mark on his country in his 35 caps, helping them to qualification and an Africa Cup of Nations win.

Must-Watch Game: Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

Second place in the group will probably come down to this match. Expect Argentina to go through comfortably, Iran to finish last and this game to decide who joins the Albiceleste in the Round of 16.

World Cup Draw 2014: Group F features Argentina as big favorites

This article originally appeared on SBNation.

Click here for the full article »
SBNation
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected