Not many people gave Iran too much of a chance of advancing from Group F in this year’s World Cup, but heading into the final round of group fixtures, they still have an opportunity to potentially advance to the second round. Iran will need some help, however, from Argentina, who must beat Nigeria to give Iran the chance to snatch second place with a win of their own over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A win for each of those teams may not necessarily be enough, however, because at least one of those results must be by more than one goal for Iran to advance on goal difference. If Argentina and Iran happen to both win 1-0, then lots will then be drawn to decide who will advance.
The performances of Iran so far suggest that scoring more than one goal in this game could prove problematic. In their first two games, Iran played very defensively, but did prove themselves to be very difficult to break down in doing so. Both Argentina and Nigeria really struggled to open them up, and it took some Lionel Messi magic to finally unlock the door in the final seconds and allow Argentina to secure the win when they met the Iranians.
That Messi goal is actually the only goal Iran have conceded so far, though, and that tells you how compact and defensively organized they are at the back. But at the other end, it is a different story altogether, and the goals are equally as dry in attack as they are in defense. Iran are yet to score in the tournament, and unfortunately for them, it is goals they must deliver to advance to the second round.
Iran will not be able to play their usual counter attacking game against Bosnia; they will have to play with more adventure, and although that should bring them more opportunities to score, it will probably bring more opportunities for Bosnia too. Iran have been a threat on the counter attack in patches, but they will need to commit players from open play in this game and be more proactive in possession — whether that is playing to their strengths or not.
At the beginning of the tournament, Iran would have probably been delighted to be in with a chance to advance going into their final fixture. They now have that opportunity, but to seize it, they must secure the win that they need and then hope for a little help from Argentina.
Ultimately, they really cannot control what Argentina do, but they can control what they do, and they must change their style of play to give themselves the best chance of beating Bosnia and, potentially, completing an unlikely triumph by advancing to the second round.