Curitiba, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Opening play in Group F, Nigeria and Iran played to a listless, 0-0 draw, the first of its kind in the 2014 World Cup at the Arena de Baixada.
Despite a few early chances for the Super Eagles, there was nothing to split the teams on the scoreboard after the first half of play. Nigeria spent more time on the attack and generated better chances, outshooting Iran 5-2, but only two of those shots forced keeper Alireza Haghighi to make saves.
Both teams subbed on forwards in the second half and attempted to open up play with stretch passes, though very few of those were successful in setting up legitimate scoring opportunities. Nigeria's last-ditch effort to grab the win came in the 90th minute on a promising cross to the back post, which was narrowly headed away by the Iranian defense.
"I am very happy but it was very difficult, we played against a great team and it was necessary to play a realistic game," said Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz. "It was a game that I need to praise my players, they deserve to be congratulated. We kept the team in the tournament and now we have Argentina. The most important thing is that everything is open for us."
Though the Super Eagles controlled some 69 percent of possession in the game, they squandered most of it, connecting on just seven percent of their crosses. Seven corners also failed to lead to a tally.
"We are very disappointed because the opening match is very important," Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel said. "We looked for the win, but Iran knew what we wanted to do and put 11 men behind the ball. They managed to stop us from playing our game. We'll have to create more chances in our next match and be sharp in front of goal."
Though both teams probably envisioned getting the important three points from the matchup, this result will make it much more difficult for either to emerge from the group, which also features Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Iran's next match comes June 21 against heavily-favored Argentina, while Nigeria will take on Bosnia-Herzegovina later that day.