Iceland made a glorious World Cup debut by holding the Messi led Argentinean side to a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon. Iceland earned a massive point in their World Cup first match showing a fabulous defensive performance against Argentina.
However, can they build on such fantastic result to pick up the historic maiden victory at the World Cup on Friday when they take on the Super eagles of Nigeria at Volgograd Arena? That is is a question that can only be answered after the match on Friday.
Iceland head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson will definitely be proud of his team’s magnificent defensive display against one of the competition’s favourites Argentina. His back line was able to keep out the star-studded attack of La Albiceleste’s led by mesmerising Lionel Messi and lethal Sergio Aguero, Iceland only conceded once in the match.
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The Europeans would hope for a better result against Nigeria in what looks like a much easier fixture on paper. The Super Eagles disappointed heavily in their opening match losing 2-0 to Croatia in a match which saw no shots on target before the hour-mark.
Croatia took the lead in the first half through a deflected goal by the unlucky Oghenekaro Etebo just 15 minutes before the break and Luka Modric robbed salt on the Nigerian wound when he converted a late penalty-kick to seal a comfortable win for Croatia.
It was a poor, frustrating and totally disappointing performance for the Gernot Rohr’s men who obviously lacked creativity moving forward and were devoid of ideas for the entire duration of the match.
Victor Moses on a couple of occasions tried to ignite some spark into the attack of the Super Eagles but his efforts fell short since there was no one to support his initiatives.
The Iceland game is a must-win match for the Super Eagles and nothing short of an improved performance from the Nigerian team is expected by the apprehensive Nigerian football fans.
The loss to Croatia made it three on the bounce for Super Eagles following defeats to Argentina and France four years ago in Brazil.
The clash with Iceland is an opportunity for the Super Eagles to end this losing streak in the World Cup. Rohr will hope to avoid own goals this time out as the team conceded two consecutive own-goals at the competition if we count the one from the last World Cup in the round of 16 four years ago against France.
The team will also hope to defend set-piece better, the Super Eagles conceded goals through set-piece in their two last warm-up matches against England and the Czech Republic, the first goal they conceded against Croatia was also through a set-piece.
Iceland being a team that depends so much on set-piece to score would be hoping to capitalise on this glaring weakness of the Nigerian team. If Nigerian must win Friday then the coach must fashion out how to keep the opponent at bay when there is a set-piece opportunity.
Nigeria Team News
Gernot Rohr is expected to tinker with his formation as he might go with a three man defence against the highly conservative Icelandic team.
John Ogu might join Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong in a three man defensive formation, while Ahmed Musa might be deployed on the right side of the attack with Alexi Iwobi taking up a more central role.
It is also likely that Kelechi Iheanacho might replace the ineffective Odion Ighalo in the attack. Odion Ighalo has failed to find the back of the net in his last seven outings for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Also, there are no injury worries for the Nigerian team.
Iceland Team News
Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson will likely stick to the same team that did the job against Argentina in their first match. Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson should get more room to be creative up front, though. He’ll start right behind Alfred Finnbogason who scored team’s maiden goal at the competition.
Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson make the rock-solid pair at the centre-back and breaking them down will be a massive challenge for the non-inspiring Nigerian attack that we saw in the first match against Croatia.
Nigeria Predicted Starting Eleven (3-5-2)
Uzoho – Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Ogu, Ebuehi, Idowu, Ndidi, Mikel, Iwobi, Moses, Iheanacho.
Iceland Predicted Starting Eleven (4-4-1-1)
Halldorsson – Saevarsson, Arnason, Sigurdsson, Magnusson, Gudmundsso, Gunnarsson, Hallfredsson, Bjarnason, Sigurdsson, Finnbogason.
There is no head-to-head between both teams as they are about to play each other for the first time ever on Friday.
We expect a very close contest with very few goal-scoring opportunities at both ends. The Iceland team favour a defensive approach to games and the Super Eagles didn’t do much going forward in their last match.
Hence, this might not be an end-to-end attacking football spectacle. It will certainly be a low scoring affair and our prediction is a narrow 1-0 win for Nigeria.
Kick Off Time
The Super Eagles of Nigeria and Iceland FIFA World Cup group D match will take place at the Volgograd Arena, Volgograd on Friday, June 22 and Kick off time is 4 pm Nigerian time.