Argentina vs Iran preview and prediction

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Remaining positive: Carlos Queiroz believes his Iran side can take something from the fixture.

Carlos Queiroz and the Iranian people have waited a long time for today. 

Their World Cup campaign has been three years in the making and amid a backdrop of political and social turmoil, a team who are forced to work under severe and stifling international sanctions will walk out alongside Lionel Messi and Argentina in Belo Horizonte with the world at their feet. 

The opening game draw with Nigeria in Group F gave hope. This though, is something different. 

The sanctions, brought in because of the governments urani¬um-enrichment programme have had far reaching effects. An over¬seas training camp was cancelled, no major national teams have shown any desire to play the state-funded Iranian side and sponsors are hard to come by. 

It is not easy being Iran – for example their media and fans here in Brazil are unable to transfer or withdraw money – but you only need to see the smile spread across Queiroz’s face to see what it all means. 

He said: “We have to make sacri¬fices but there are two kinds of sacrifice – on and off the pitch. 

“You cannot stand behind FIFA rules, you need to build up a spe¬cial programme for all the players to help bring honour and pride to your country. We don’t have the standards of others. 

“The imbalance makes sure you need to be very strong mentality. You need big characters to make sure they can cope with everything. Every time we have the ball you must enjoy it. 

“We have come here to be ourselves. Iranians know there are political and economic conditions which means we weren’t able to get ready for this with big games against top teams. We played against teams who didn’t charge us or anything. We have worked three years for this.” 

Of course, containing Messi will be problematic. Not just for Iran but for the very best in the game. 

Queiroz though has previous in how to keep a lid on the little Argentine genius – successfully shutting him out in the Champions League semi-final of 2008 while working for Manchester United. 

“Our approach is based on some principles from that experience, control the space and if you’re not one step ahead, it will be tough. Messi is proof that football is a simple thing,” the Portuguese added.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Argentina (4-3-3)
Romero; Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo; Rodriguez, Mascherano, Di Maria; Messi, Higuain, Aguero

Iran (4-2-3-1)
Haghighi; Montazeri, Hosseini, Sadeqi, Pooladi; Nekounam, Teymourian; Heydari, Hajsafi, Dejagah; Ghoochanneijhad

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Angel Di Maria
Argentina's front three speak for themselves but in order to function efficiently they need supply. Ex-winger Di Maria is now a bona fide midfielder, his tireless running and invention key to La Albiceleste.

Iran – Ashkan Dejagah
Iran's strength may lie in their defence – and they'll be busy – but Dejagah is an individual who offers that extra bit of class in the final third. A fine dribbler, he is Iran's best attacking threat.

PREDICTION

Iran will defend for their lives, but there is no way that Argentina's incredible attack will not break through. Argentina win 3-0. 

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Five-star France smash Switzerland

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Brilliant Benzema: The Real Madrid striker has scored three goals so far in Brazil.

France crushed Switzerland 5-2 on Friday to all but insure their place in the World Cup knock-out rounds.

Goals from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko gave rampant France a thumping victory.

Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka scored for Switzerland.

After beating Honduras 3-0 in their opening match, France will see their qualification from Group E ratified if Honduras beat Ecuador later Friday.

Switzerland went into the game as the group's top seeds ranked 11 places above France in FIFA's list at six, but their coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said before kick-off that 1998 world champions France were the true favourites.

And in a one-sided affair, Benzema also missed a first half penalty and had a goal ruled out because it came two seconds after the final whistle.

Arsenal forward Giroud set the ball rolling by thumping home a Valbuena corner with his head. Just a minute later, Benzema anticipated a Valon Behrami pass back and teed up Matuidi to beat Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, who should have done much better, at his near post.

Johan Djourou was harshly penalised for a foul on Benzema in the box but justice was done when Benaglio parried the French striker's spot-kick. Yohan Cabaye firing the rebound against the bar.

But the respite was short-lived as Giroud crossed for Valbuena to tap home on a lightning counter-attack, giving France a 3-0 lead at the break.

Switzerland capitulated late on as Philippe Senderos missed a through ball from substitute Paul Pogba and Benzema nutmegged Benaglio.

The Real Madrid forward then set up Sissoko to fire home from an angle as France ran riot before Dzemaili's late free-kick crept inside the post and Xhaka slammed pas Hugo Lloris after latching onto a chip over the top.

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Hodgson to remain England boss despite early World Cup exit

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Staying put: Hodgson will remain England manager until after Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson will stay on as England manager until 2016 despite his side's chastening group-stage elimination from the World Cup, Football Association chairman Greg Dyke announced on Friday.

"We are supportive of Roy Hodgson and would like him to stay as manager," Dyke said in comments reported by British media shortly before England's exit was confirmed by Costa Rica's 1-0 victory over Italy in Recife.

"We do not see any value in changing. We think Roy has done a good job and it is an approach over four years and we hope to do better in the European Championships."

With England having lost 2-1 to Uruguay in their Group D clash in Sao Paulo on Thursday, Costa Rica's shock win over Italy condemned the 1966 champions to their earliest World Cup exit for 56 years.

Hodgson, who succeeded Fabio Capello in May 2012, is under contract with the FA until the 2016 European Championship in France.

– Sport360°'s World Cup show: England vs Uruguay at XL Beach Club

Speaking before England's elimination had been confirmed, he said that he was not thinking about stepping down.

"I don't have any intention to resign," the 66-year-old said. "I'm bitterly disappointed, of course, but I don't feel I need to resign, no."

Despite England's early departure from Brazil, Hodgson has been praised for picking a youthful squad and attempting to inject attacking flair into his side's play.

England impressed in their opening loss to Italy in Manaus last Saturday, with 19-year-old Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling catching the eye, but they produced an error-strewn display against Uruguay.

"Everybody thought we played really well in the first game and narrowly lost," added Dyke. "They were narrow defeats, but it is for the football people to decide what went wrong.

"In the second game, it could have gone either way. We were not humiliated or anything like that."

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