Nigeria head to Brazil as unexpected African champions, which has increased fans' expectations. Although the usual bonus-related tensions can't be ruled out, coach Stephen Keshi has largely been able to select his squad without interference from federation officials. During the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), attempts were made to sack him and he resigned immediately after the tournament before the national president, Goodluck Jonathan, stepped in as mediator.
Part of the reason Keshi remains popular is over the use of domestic league players, with the goal that won AFCON 2014 scored by the then locally based Sunday Mba (now of Bastia). Strikers Ike Uche and Peter Odemwingie have both fallen out with the disciplinarian Keshi, but an uneasy truce has been declared for now.
Hardly anyone in Iran believes that Team Melli (the national team) can make it to the second round from their group and there are fears for their defence, especially against Lionel Messi and co. Iran weren't convincing in the qualifiers, only scoring eight goals in as many games, though they did at least win the last three in a row.
For the simple fact he has got the team to Brazil, coach Carlos Queiroz is a popular figure. Many approve of his efforts to attract Iranians with dual citizenship, such as German-born goalkeeper Daniel Davari, as well as Ashkan Dejagah of Fulham and Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejhad, who grew up in Germany and Holland respectively. Iranian fans tend to blame mismanagement by the football federation, rather than the coach, for any lack of quality in the team. The league has been damaged by a number of scandals and allegations of corruption, with many clubs also not held accountable for failing to pay wages.
Nearly all Nigeria players cope well with media interest, Joseph Yobo and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama being especially good. Enyeama is known for his forthright opinions and never ducks awkward questions. Victor Moses is a popular figure, not least for having overcome tragedy – his parents were brutally killed in Kaduna during religious rioting, which led to him fleeing to England as a teenager. His subsequent call-up to the national team was an extremely emotional one. Despite a poor season for Liverpool, he is expected to be an integral part of the squad. In the Iran team, Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian come across as the most intelligent, with an extra level of professionalism in media terms being put down to their experience in La Liga and the Premier League.
Nigeria's state broadcaster NTA is the only channel confirmed to be showing games, but independent channels will also pick up rights nearer the time. Victor Ikpeba, Taribo West and Daniel Amokachi will be among the many ex-internationals working as pundits. Former players tend not to feature in Iranian TV coverage but there will be a referee available, usually by phone, to be asked about disputed decisions.
The large community of Iranain expatriates in the US are expected to form the bulk of their support in Brazil. To a backdrop of drums and horns, the favourite chant is "Doo, Dodo, Doo, Doo – Iran!", a distinctive rhythm rather than a witty lyric. There are over 15,000 Nigerian nationals currently residing in Brazil who are likely to add their support to a few thousand expected to travel from Nigeria. "All we are saying is give us a goal/more goals" will be their most popular chant. Kwame Ibegbuna & Adnan Tabatabai