Based on what we saw on Saturday, the Nigeria-Greece match that leads us into this afternoon's France-Mexico closer could be an unimaginative affair, with two teams lacking creativity bluntly trying to break through the other's stoic defense. For some there will be charm in that straight-forward simplicity. For others, that description will sound brutal, but even in the most brutal of soccer matches there are subtleties, whether you're watching a cluster of five year olds kick each others' shins or 22 of the best athletes in the world - 22 athletes who happen to play for national teams with no attacking verve.
In Thursday's match between Greece and Nigeria, the subtleties will come in the tweaks. Greece needs to use their two strong, central midfielders to take control of this match, while Nigeria needs to put their best players in better positions to succeed.
No huge tactical adjustments. No wholesale lineup changes. Just subtleties.
Greece, Going Forward: Georgios Samaras may be Greece's most important player. He is their best passer and, although ostensibly a forward, often provides the link between forwards Theofanis Gekas and Angelos Charisteas and a central midfield pairing Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis.
On Saturday, Samaras was poor and was eventually subbed-off. The result was a Greece performance that lacked any real scoring chances, engendering questions as to whether they can make an impact in this group. Greece has always prioritized defending, but Saturday's display showed an attack with a newborn's bite.
Against a Nigerian team with a thin midfield, Karagounis and Katsouranis could augment what Samaras provides, possibly moving him into a more attacking role. Against a more skilled Korean team whose movement can trouble a defense, the central midfielders were often drawn too deep to help. Against a Nigeria team whose attacks don't tend to feature quantities of attackers, the Greek midfielders can play more box-to-box roles.
As a result, we could see a Greek team with much more fluidity and imagination, but don't get too excited. This is Greece, and Otto Rehhagel will maintain his priorities. Remember: subtleties.
Nigeria, Going Forward: The Super Eagles have a wealth of attacking talent, but the keys may be Chiendu Obasi and Peter Odemwingie. Odemwingie, who started the Argentina match on the bench, needs to play ninety minutes. If he does, the Russia-based forward can augment Nigeria's lack of midfield creativity in the same way we same Diego Forlán helped Uruguay.
Odemwingie will need to pick-out Chiendu Obasi, the attacker deployed on the left who is most likely to win individual battles with the Greek defenders. Obasi was one of the highlights against Argentina, but against an equally adept, more organized Greek defense, he will need more help - before and after he's on the ball. Part of that help will be Odemwingie and part will be Yakubu Aiyegbeni finding more space in the area.
Ultimately, Nigeria will rely on individual efforts above movement or tactics. Against Greece, that might not be a bad thing. Greece is difficult to break down, and Nigeria may be wasting their time trying to develop intricate ways to make their way through that defense. The place where they have an advantage is in players like Obasi. Might as well use it.
How The Match Turns: Another Nigeria player who can beat Greek defenders is Obafemi Martins, the Wolfsburg attacker who has served as a kind of super-substitute. He could come on for Yakubu in the second half, but a better role would be on the right side of attack to balance out a formation that would otherwise favor going left.
If Lars Lagerback gets aggressive and puts on Martins early, Nigeria may unsettle this match. Otherwise, Greece could have the time needed to find and exploit an Nigerian weakness and get a result.