World Cup Preview: Nigeria v Iceland

Who? Nigeria - Iceland
Where? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
When? June 22, 17:00 (CET local time)

Nigeria (Yossi Medina)

The Nigerians are disappointed after their previous game against Croatia. Nobody thought that Nigeria are favorites, but they failed to even be a challenge for their opponents. Now the Super Eagles are looking to strike against Iceland.

Nigeria will have to look for more energy in the attack. Unfortunately, the Nigerian strikers are not at the same level as we used to see in the past. The team relied on Odion Ighalo and later added Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho and all performed badly in this match. The coach, Gernot Rohr, will have to find a solution for that, as finishing another goalless game can be the end of the story for Nigeria.

The player who was marked as key player, John Obi Mikel, will need to bring his experience to the field. By playing against Iceland, he will make his 87th international cap and he will be the all-time third most capped player in Nigeria after Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo. Obi Mikel will be the player that shows his skills and leads the team.

The game against Iceland will be the last chance for Nigeria. If they will know how to use their experience and talent, they even can break the frozen defense of Iceland. In any other case, Nigeria may face their early exit today.

Iceland (Eden Roitfarb)

Just like in Euro 2016, more incredible stories regarding Iceland’s players and population are being reported in the news and social media: For instance, the Argentina draw became the most-watched TV event in the history of Iceland, as 99.6% of the population who have watched TV tuned to the game. Striker Alfreð Finnbogason’s reply to this fact: “The other 0,4% was on the pitch!”.  Additionally, defender Birkir Már Sævarsson is probably the only player at the World Cup that had to ask permission from his work, a salt packing factory, to play in the tournament.

Coming off an impressive fighting performance combined with some tactical brilliance vs Argentina, it is a whole different ballgame for Iceland on Friday against the Super Eagles from Nigeria. The big question is how the Icelandic can perform coming from the favorite’s position and not the underdog? Yes, you read correctly – A team playing their second ever World Cup game are expected to beat a side that is participating in their 6th tournament. That is mainly due to the mood of both teams after their opening match, but also due to the apparent European domination in head to head matches vs non-Europeans this summer.

One of the key points that would be worth a look is ball possession. Most of Iceland’s recent successes came in games where they held relatively less of the ball, like vs England in 2016 or vs Argentina. However, when holding more possession, they are in risk of losing their game plan and tactical shape – just like in the 5-2 defeat to France in the Euros. It will be interesting to see how Iceland will deal with this issue vs Nigeria when they are suddenly expected to attack and win.

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