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Soccer-'Rottweiler' shuts the gate to keep 'Big Boss' at bay

Reuters

By Toby Davis

June 16 (Reuters) - Pitching a well-marshalled defence against a largely impotent attack, it was perhaps no surprise that Monday's Group F clash between Iran and Nigeria produced the World Cup's first truly disappointing match.

The rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills had to come to an end at some point, but the only consolation to mitigate the lack of entertainment on offer in Curitiba was that it came in a fixture nobody thought would to be a classic.

It played out exactly as expected with Nigeria making the running and Iran looking to counter-punch their way to a smash-and-grab victory.

Yet this was not wave after wave of Nigeria pressure crashing against Iranian rock - it was more akin to a gentle African tide lapping against Persian shores.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was labelled "the Rottweiler" by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson for the strict control he exercised when assistant at Old Trafford.

There was plenty of evidence of the disciplinarian's iron fist as Iran stuck to their task with admirable determination.

His counterpart in the opposing dugout, Stephen 'Big Boss' Keshi played all his aces but still came up short.

The Nigeria coach had left forwards Peter Odemwingie and Shola Ameobi on the bench with Emmanuel Emenike spearheading a three-man forward line.

The African side initially played with purpose down the left side with Victor Moses enjoying an early degree of success, before fading as the match wore on.

Iran were not going to be drawn into going toe-to-toe and kept everyone in their own half when their opponents had the ball. They only snapped into tackles when Nigeria crossed the halfway line.

Careless Iran passing consistently gifted the Africans possession, but the limited ambitions of Queiroz's side were satisfied by keeping their opponents at bay rather than threatening at the other end.

Chances were few and far between, the best of the match falling to Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad, whose header was beaten away by Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama in the first half.

Keshi rolled the dice after the break, bringing on Odemwingie and Ameobi and while they added extra pace and directness, the Iranian defence stayed solid to the end - when loud boos greeted the final whistle.

With the tougher challenges of Argentina and Bosnia in their remaining two games, neither side has gained a lot through the draw.

Yet Queiroz, whose stint at Iran is set to end after the tournament, will be the happier of the two managers - his limited squad are among the weakest in the competition and every point should be seen as a bonus.

"We played with a strong team spirit, with a lot of concentration and discipline," he told reporters.

"We played a realistic game, with a lot of tactical discipline. I want to praise my players. They suffered but they always played with one thing in their mind "score, score, score.

"Nobody deserved to win the game. I think one point for us and one point for Nigeria was fair." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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