CURITIBA, June 16: Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi believes getting the better of his opposite number Carlos Queiroz will be the biggest challenge for his side as they take on Iran in their World Cup opener on Monday.
The Super Eagles have taken just two points from six matches in their last two appearances at the World Cup, but have higher hopes this time around after winning the African Nations’ Cup last year.
“I think their coach is their biggest weapon, because he’s well experienced, he knows the game well,” Keshi told FIFA.com
“For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We’re not going to take Iran lightly because they’re not going to take us lightly, so we have to go out with everything that we have.
“They have a very good coach and I’m sure they also have some quality players. We don’t know Iran very well, but we’ll see them on Monday.”
Nigeria’s campaign will be spearheaded by Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, whilst captain Joseph Yobo could make his 100th appearance for his country against Argentina in the final group game.
And Keshi is relying on them to guide his young squad.
“You can’t buy this sort of experience. I pray that Enyeama, Yobo and Mikel Obi will bring all their experience. Youth is good, but if we can combine youth and experience that will be great for us.”
Iran’s preparations for their fourth World Cup have been far from ideal with international sanctions on the Iranian government leading to a lack of funds to arrange friendly matches.
They did go unbeaten in four hastily arranged warm-up games for the tournament against modest opposition, but managed to win just once in a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago last week.
They are one of the few unknown quantities in the competition with 14 of their 23-man squad still playing in their domestic league.
However, they excelled in qualifying and topped a group including perennial qualifiers South Korea.
And no matter the result, Queiroz is convinced he will get full commitment from his players.
“We have no doubt about our players’ readiness and I know who will start exactly against Nigeria,” said the former Real Madrid boss.
“We will have 90 minutes to fight against Nigeria and one thing for sure is the Iranian players are willing to give 100 percent and work hard to get results.”
With Argentina expected to dominate Group F, both sides should face a battle with World Cup newcomers Bosnia and Hercegovina for second place.
And Iranian defender Steven Beitashour believes a win in Curitiba would put them in position to progress past the first round for the first time.
“I think it’s going to be a tough battle,” said Beitashour, who plays in Major League Soccer with the Vancouver WhiteCaps.
“If you can start off the World Cup right and get the win, I think you have a good chance of getting to the next round.”