Argentina comes in to this tournament ranked number five by FIFA and as one of the favorites by oddsmakers.
To say that Argentina’s squad is stacked with great players would be an understatement. First there’s the presence of the prolific Lionel Messi who scored 41 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season. He will be joined up front by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (28 goals), Inter Milan’s Rodrigo Palacio (19 goals) and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain (24 goals).
Then there’s the team’s midfield maestro Angel Di Maria. Di Maria scored 12 goals and assisted on 24 others in all matches for Barcelona this campaign.
Argentina is managed by former midfielder and native son Alejandro Sabella. His playing career included stints with River Plate and Estudiantes in the Primera Division. He also spent some time managing in England with Sheffield United and Leeds United.
This is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first World Cup appearance as an independent nation. Known as the mighty Dragons, Bosnia scored 30 goals in their ten World Cup qualifying matches. Only Germany, England and Holland scored more.
Bosnia’s roster is full of good players that are currently not household names. Their strike force, however, includes the world class Edin Dzeko. Dzeko scored 28 goals and contributed 10 assists for Manchester City this season. He’ll be joined up front by Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibisevic who had 15 goals this season.
Manager Safet Susic has a wealth of experience as both a player and a manager. In ten seasons with Paris Saint-Germain he scored 172 goals in 343 appearances. He was named the best foreign player to every play in Ligue 1 by French magazine France Football. Susic has been at the helm of the Bosnian side since 2009 and has guided them to their first tournament on the world stage.
The Iranian team’s most important member is not a player, but Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz. Queiroz served as an assistant manager under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and has previous coaching experience with Real Madrid as well as the national teams of Portugal and South Africa.
Queiroz has added a number of foreign born players of Iranian descent to his squad. These include German goalkeeper Daniel Davari, Swedish midfielder Omid Nazari and American born right-back Steven Beitashour
The Iranians are strong on defense and kept ten clean sheets throughout their qualifying campaign.
Key players for Iran include midfielder and captain Javad Nekounam and two English based players attacking midfielder Ashkan Dejagah of Fulham and Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad (known as Gucci).
Expectations are not high for Iran, but they are an unknown entity and could surprise in Brazil.
When Nigeria didn’t qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, it was only a matter of time before changes were made. Under manager Stephen Keshi, Nigeria came back strong and won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria is currently ranked 44th and have not made it out of the group rounds since the 1998 World Cup in France.
Keshi brings national team experience to the Super Eagles as he made 64 appearances for Nigeria during his playing career. His past managerial experience includes spells with Togo and Mali. He has been at the helm of the Nigerian squad since 2011.
Striker Victor Moses is expected to be a key figure for Nigeria as is Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel. Other players to look out for include forwards Shola Ameobi of Newcastle, Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahce and Peter Odemwingie who plays for Stoke.
Argentina is the odds on favorite to win this group. The battle for the second spot appears to be between Bosnia and Nigeria.
Next time we’ll take a look at Group G: Germany, Ghana, Portugal and United States.
Past Group Previews: