Nigeria will look to bounce back from their opening defeat in Group D of the 2018 World Cup when they take on Iceland at the Volgograd Arena on Friday, June 22, kick-off at 17h00.
Nigeria’s campaign got off to a poor start this past weekend when they were beaten 2-0 by Croatia in Kaliningrad. Although the Super Eagles were somewhat unlucky in conceding the opening goal through their own player – Oghenekaro Etebo unwittingly put the ball into his own net – they had no answer for the technical and tactical excellence of ‘The Blazers’, who claimed their second via a penalty from Luka Modric.
Most worryingly for coach Gernot Rohr, Nigeria has not learnt from the mistakes made in their warm-up fixtures: they again started the game sluggishly and were poor in defending set-pieces. The opening goal arrived from a corner kick, while the penalty was conceded at another.
Sorting out his team’s ability to rebuff their opponents’ dead-ball situations will be essential for Rohr, who may revert to a three-man defence, while livening up their attack is another key aspect, with Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo flattering to deceive against Croatia.
Quite whether this means Kelechi Ihenacho and Ahmed Musa will be thrown in from the start against Iceland remains to be seen, but at least a formation switch may allow the team to get more out of Alex Iwobi, who seemed lost out on the left flank in their opener.
As for Iceland, their debut at the World Cup was a memorable one, as they held Argentina to a 1-1 draw. The South American heavyweights held the lead through Sergio Aguero, but the Nordic challengers hit back through Alfredh Finngobason to earn a share of the spoils and leave the two teams tied in second place on the Group D log on a point apiece.
‘Strakarnir Okkar’ may have needed goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson to save a penalty from Lionel Messi, but their spirited performance fully merited a point against the two-time World Cup winners in Moscow.
Nigeria VS Iceland
Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team have the physicality to match the Super Eagles, and their height and power at set pieces will be a key facet of their game plan. They don’t have the flair or speed of Nigeria, but solid organisation more than makes up for their shortcomings.
Nigeria v Iceland – head-to-head
In head-to-head terms, Nigeria and Iceland have met in just one previous match – a friendly in Reykjavik back in August 1981 which ended 3-0 in favour of the Nordic team. While such an emphatic scoreline is unlikely in this match, Iceland probably has the weapons to claim a second win over the Super Eagles.
Matches played 1
Nigeria wins 0
Iceland wins 1
Nigeria goals 0
Iceland goals 3