Beautiful weather, beautiful venue, beautiful city, but that word had nothing to do with the World Cup match in Curitiba on Monday. There were more '0's in the final match statistics than expected.
Iran's Alireza Jahanbakhsh, centre, reaches out to shake hands with Nigeria's Juwon Oshaniwa after the Group F World Cup match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, on Monday. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo)
There was at least one goal in each of the previous twelve matches, until this one. African champions Nigeria drew 0-0 with Iran in a Group F match, producing the first tie in the 2014 World Cup. The loud 'boos' from 39,081 fans in the stadium came from every direction at Arena Da Baixada, no matter where they were from.
"Iran has won the respect from all over the world," said Iranian head coach Carlos Queiroz after the match. "The key is not the boos, I don't care about it. The most important thing is we take one point back."
Negerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, who had completed 93 passes all-through the match, was named "Man of the Match" afterwards. His freekick in the 32nd minute lightened the excitement in the stadium, but the fire was quickly put off after that.
"It's not the end of the world," said Nigerian head coach Stephen Keshi. "That's football, and sometimes it's hard to explain, just like the match between Spain and the Netherlands. We just didn't score today (Monday)."
The two teams split opportunities in the match. Nigeria had more chances in the first half, and Iran did a better job in the second. Both the teams got something, though no goal, from the match. Iran became the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to win any point in the tournament, and Nigeria finished with the same too.
Nigeria, Iran stalemate leaves fans unimpressed
After the first round, Iran and Nigeria occupied the second and third place in Group F.
Iran was the highest-ranked Asian team in the most recent FIFA rankings, Nigeria was also one of the best teams in Africa. "I remember watching the World Cup in South Africa. It was disappointing that we didn't come out of the group in 2010," said the 21-year-old defender Kenneth Omeruo, who had been playing for Chelsea, before the match. "We'll have to play for the Nigerian fans because it was a massive welcome when we won the African Cup of Nations," he said.
Nigeria took an early advantage. Victor Moses cut inside from the Nigerian left and hit a pop shot from the edge of the box, but the shot was too comfortable for Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi. Nigeria had several good attempts afterwards, and even sent one ball into the goal, but the referee decided Nigeria had committed a foul against the Iran goalkeeper before the shot.
Nigeria defender Godfrey Oboabona went up for a header in the 21st minute. He did not land well and was carried out of the pitch for treatment. Haghighi was challenged again in the 32nd minute by a freekick from Nigerian midfielder Mikel, and he was quick enough to keep the shot away from the goal.
Nigeria continued the dominance in the beginning of the second half, but the Iran defenders, strong in size, awarded the team more counter-attacking chances. The Iran attackers were benefited from the strong defence. Both Haji Safi and Reza had opportunities to get the lead for Iran, and the threats got bigger and bigger for the African champion as the match went on.
There was another chance in the 71st minute for Nigeria. Ameobi tried to get on the edge of a deep cross into the box, but he impeded the Iranian defender and the effort would not have counted anyway. Both the sides made great effort in attacking through the rest of the match, but neither ended up in score.
Iran will next face Argentina, and Nigeria will meet Bosnia and Herzegovina in the second round.