World Cup: Nigeria v Iceland [see our prediction & analysis]
World Cup GROUP D: Nigeria – Iceland. Time: 16:00 – Prediction: 1-1
Nigeria’s vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi could return to the side after being dropped for the opening defeat by Croatia.
Oghenekaro Etebo scored an own goal in that match and could make way, while Ahmed Musa is also in contention.
Iceland could be without Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who sustained a muscle injury against Argentina.
Rurik Gislason came on for Gudmundsson in that game, and may replace him in the starting line-up.
Nigeria have the youngest squad on average at this World Cup, but the biggest concern heading into a crunch game with Iceland is that age-old problems remain. While it would be convenient to blame Nigeria’s defensive frailties in the defeat by Croatia on the relative inexperience of their squad, a weakness at set-pieces has long been the Super Eagles’ Achilles heel.
Since making their World Cup debut in 1994, 14 of the 27 goals they have conceded have come from a set-piece (52%), the worst percentage of any nation during that period, including an own goal from a corner in their group opener.
Conversely, organisation is very much Iceland’s strength, as their impressive draw with Argentina demonstrated. Expertly drilled and rigidly disciplined, they frustrated the South Americans while giving up few clear-cut chances on their World Cup debut.
Worryingly for Nigeria, Iceland also looked threatening with a direct, long-ball orientated game that could cause a discombobulated defence no end of trouble. A second defeat for Nigeria, and they are out.
In their only previous meeting, Iceland triumphed 3-0 in a 1981 friendly
It’s a game both teams will probably need to win to make the last 16, and Nigeria definitely can’t afford to lose it after opening with a defeat.
- Iceland’s major tournament record
Iceland have lost just once in six matches at major tournaments (W2, D3)
- MATCH FACTS – Head-to-head
In their only previous meeting, Iceland triumphed 3-0 in a 1981 friendly.
All five of Nigeria’s wins at the World Cup have come against European sides.
The Super Eagles have won just one of their last 13 World Cup games (D3, L9), with that victory coming against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
They have failed to progress from the group stage on both previous occasions they have lost their opening game.
Nigeria are currently on a World Cup losing streak of three games, their worst run since losing four matches between 1998 and 2002.
They have failed to score in six of their last 11 World Cup matches.
Iceland drew their first ever World Cup game against Argentina. The last side to avoid defeat in their opening two matches were Senegal in 2002.
Alfred Finnbogason has scored in his last three appearances for Iceland, though they’ve failed to win any of those matches (D2, L1).
After recording eight shots in the first half against Argentina, Iceland failed to register an attempt on goal in the rest of the match.
Kari Arnason won 13 aerial duels against Argentina, the most by any player in the opening round of matches.