2018 World Cup Pick and Preview: Nigeria vs. Iceland – June 22, 2018
Matchup at a Glance
Where: Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Date + Time (ET): Friday, 22.06.2018 – 15:00 UTC
Odds: Nigeria +188, Draw +205, Iceland +174 @ Bookmaker
Quick Pick: Iceland PK @Bookmaker -113
After a solid performance against Argentina with Lionel Messi in their lines, Iceland will face Nigeria in what could turn into a decider for both teams' World Cup hopes. This is the second match of both sides in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and they will play it at the “Volgograd Arena” in Volgograd. After the opening round in Group D last Saturday, Iceland is ranked third, while Nigeria lies on the last position but this can quickly change if either side finds a way to scoop the three points in Volgograd.
There has only been one previous encounter between the national soccer teams of Iceland and Nigeria, with the European side winning 3-0 in a friendly on 22 August 1981. The game was held in Icelandic capital Reykjavík, where Iceland won with the goals of Arni Sveinsson, Larus Gudmundsson and former captain Marteinn Geirsson.
Two years ago Iceland amazed the worldwide soccer community by reaching the quarter-finals at the UEFA Euro 2016 in France. Now Iceland marked its World Cup debut with a fine result against Argentina and is surely eager for more when Heimir Hallgrimsson's men will face the only African side in Group D. They already became the smallest nation by population to ever clinch a FIFA World Cup position but appetite comes with eating and now Iceland surely dreams of a Round of 16 breakthrough.
Iceland's coach Heimir Hallgrimsson hopes to have all players available for the Nigeria game and his concerns are mostly related with the condition of right winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The 27-year-old winger of English Burnley was injured during Saturday's draw with Argentina and is being monitored by Iceland medical staff ahead of Friday's game with the Super Eagles. Iceland assistant coach Helgi Koldvidsson told a press conference:
“Johann Berg Gudmundsson has torn a muscle. It remains a question whether he will be fit, but we'll see on match-day.”
If Gudmundsson, who is one of the most experienced Iceland players with 68 caps, is not fully fit to play, Heimir Hallgrimsson will probably start with SV Sandhausen's Rurik Gislason. Aside from Gudmundsson's injury, Hallgrimsson has no intention to make other changes, unless he doesn't plan to utilize 4-4-2 formation for that game. He started with 4-4-1-1 against Argentina, with Gylfi Sigurdsson behind goal scorer Alfred Finnbogason. If Iceland plays 4-4-2 against Nigeria, either Jon Dadi Bodvarsson or Bjorn Sigurdarson can start next to Finnbogason at the expense of central midfielder Emil Hallfredsson, who can sit on the bench.
Nigeria looked absolutely clueless how to score and deservedly lost 0-2 to Croatia on Saturday night (Russian time). Nevertheless, coach Gernot Rohr could name the same lineup that started against the Europeans. This features a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong as centre-back duo, and Brian Idowu/Shehu Abdullahi on both backs. Consequently the new signing of Stoke City Oghenekaro Etebo, whose play was one of the few positives for Nigeria against Croatia, and Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi will build up the central midfield partnership.
Nigerian skipper John Obi Mikel should once again start as an attacking midfielder, while Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi are both favorites to run through the wings. And if Moses can be sure about his starting spot, Iwobi can be challenged by another player of English Leicester City – Ahmed Musa. Another Nigerian who plays for Leicester City, Kelechi Iheanacho, will hope to get a nod from the coach and to replace Odion Ighalo, who failed to impress being on top of Nigeria's attacking formation.
The Super Eagles will need a positive result, a win preferably, in order to stand a chance to reach one of the top two positions that secure knockout stage promotion. Everything else, especially a defeat, can mean that Nigeria will have to leave Russia after the last group stage round.
Possible Lineups of Nigeria and Iceland
Nigeria Francis Uzoho – Bryan Idowu, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Abdullahi Shehu – Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi – Alex Iwobi, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses – Odion Ighalo. (4-2-3-1)
Iceland Hannes Halldorsson – Birkir Mar Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Hordur Magnusson – Rurik Gislason, Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Birkir Bjarnason – Gylfi Sigurdsson – Alfred Finnbogason. (4-4-1-1)
Conclusion and Betting Pick
We were pleasantly surprised by Iceland when they first made it out of the UEFA Euro 2016 group stage but they have proved that wasn't accidental and simply don't stop to build on ever since. They have shown pure dedication, excellent teamwork and most importantly – efficiency in punishing mistakes of their opponents. We already have a bet on Iceland to win their group and a small bet on them winning the tournament at all, and we will back them against Nigeria respectively. For extra safety we recommend betting on “Iceland PK“, which means that a draw is excluded as a potential outcome and you get your money back if the game ends in a draw. Anyway, Iceland looks capable to beat Nigeria, especially if the Africans repeat their weak attacking performance from the opening game.
- Betting Pick: Iceland PK -113