With group favourites, Argentina wobbling, a win for Europeans could help them one foot in the qualifications door.
Having pulled off one of the shocks of the opening round of fixtures at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, Iceland will be hoping for all three points against Nigeria at the Volgograd Arena on Friday. In their opening match of Group D, the fearless tournament debutants managed to hold Argentina to a 1-1 draw thanks to a compact and hard-working collective performance. When an unnerved Lionel Messi missed a penalty that could have won the game, the Icelanders visibly grew in confidence and now Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side are in with a decent chance of qualifying for the Round of 16.
On the other hand, Nigeria go into this fixture under significant psychological pressure, as defeat would consign them to an early exit from the tournament. Gernot Rohr’s team were unconvincing in their first match in Russia, when they looked predictable in attack and less than assured defending set pieces in a fully deserved 2-0 reverse to Croatia.
Team reporter analysis
Annette Braun (Nigeria)
The task for the Super Eagles is simple: they need at least one point to keep their chances of making it to the Round of 16 alive. Clearly their attack lacked bite against Croatia, so the question is whether the Nigerians can find a way through the tightly-packed Icelandic defence. Could there be any personnel changes from the first match? It is entirely possible that Ahmed Musa may play from the start.
Petur Hreinsson (Iceland)
If anyone thought that the Icelandic players’ appetite for more glory was over when they reached the group stage of the World Cup, the performance against Argentina proved their doubters wrong. They are not in Russia just to enjoy being at the World Cup and the team’s official goal is to qualify for the last 16. The only player not fully fit in their squad is Johann Gudmundsson, who remains a major doubt to recover in time.
Did you know?
Nigeria have won just one of their last 13 matches at the FIFA World Cup (W1-D3-L9), a 1-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina on 21 June 2014 in Cuiaba during the group stage of Brazil 2014. Peter Odemwingie got the only goal of the game on that occasion.
Nigeria: Francis Uzoho; Abdullahi Shehu, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Brian Idowu; Wilfred Ndidi, John Obi Mikel, Oghenekaro Etebo; Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi.
Iceland: Hannes Halldorsson; Birkir Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Hordor Magnusson; Emil Hallfredsson, Aron Gunnarsson; Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Rurik Gislason; Alfred Finnbogason.