MX23RW : Sunday, July 15 23:10:25
Jun 22, 2018 at 4pm UK at ​Volgograd Arena
Attendance: 40,904
Nigeria
2-0
IcelandIceland
Musa (49', 75')
Idowu (44')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Nigeria vs. Iceland - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted XIs and a full match preview for the World Cup Group D clash between Nigeria and Iceland in Volgograd.

Iceland will be looking to follow up their historic draw with Argentina when they take on Nigeria in their second World Cup match in Volgograd on Friday.

The prospect of reaching the knockout stages remains a very realistic one for the Europeans, whereas Nigeria are still waiting to get off the mark following a 2-0 defeat to Croatia in their first game.


Nigeria

Nigeria's Victor Moses in action with Croatia's Ivan Perisic during the World Cup group-stage match on June 16, 2018© Reuters

For many, Nigeria are a very welcome presence at the World Cup - they always arrive in a blaze of colour and have boasted some of the most skilful African players to have graced the tournament.

However, their record in the competition makes worrying reading, and last Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Croatia has left them facing the prospect of being knocked out in the group stages for the third time in their last four appearances on the grandest stage.

The Super Eagles have now lost nine and won just one of their last 13 World Cup games - with that victory coming against Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014 - and are on a losing streak of three matches in a row following the defeat to Croatia.

Indeed, they have failed to even score in six of their last 11 World Cup outings and offered minimal threat in their opening game, registering only two shots on target.

In Nigeria's defence, they have the youngest squad at the tournament, but the World Cup does not allow bedding-in periods for such factors and if they shoot themselves in the foot again - an own goal and a penalty separated the two sides in their opener - then they will likely find themselves on an early flight home from Russia.

Set pieces have proven to be the scourge of the country at the World Cup, conceding 52% of their goals at the tournament via that means since their debut in 1994, which is a higher ratio than any other nation in that timeframe.

That could again rear its head against an Iceland side that is thoroughly organised above all else, and defeat would guarantee their exit from the tournament with a game still to spare.

There are some reasons for optimism, though; all five of their previous World Cup victories have come over European opposition, and Iceland's underdog mentality should be less prevalent against a team ranked 26 places below them.

Nigeria's lowly ranking is befitting of their recent form, though, and if they are to save their World Cup lives then they will likely need to end a five-match winless run which includes four defeats.

Recent form: L
Recent form (all competitions): WLDLLL


Iceland

Alfred Finnbogason celebrates with teammates after equalising during the World Cup group game between Argentina and Iceland on June 16, 2018© Reuters

Iceland already look set to make as big a splash on the world stage as they did at Euro 2016 two years ago, and they are a banana skin most teams would probably rather avoid now.

Argentina found that out the hard way, and while there was an element of luck about their historic draw with the South American outfit - Lionel Messi missing a penalty and Argentina's other world-class strikers failing to shine - the result will have only boosted the level of confidence which is already out of proportion with the size of their nation.

Indeed, Iceland are the smallest nation by population to have ever qualified for the World Cup, and it always feels as though the entire country is in the stands roaring their team on, such is the passion this golden generation has inspired.

Purely on the FIFA rankings, Iceland are not as big underdogs as it feels; they are placed above 13 other World Cup participants and by that measure should go into this match as fairly big favourites to pick up three vital points.

However, they are also winless in their last seven outings stretching back to October, failing to pick up a single victory since confirming their place at the World Cup for the very first time.

Events in the other game in Group D could shape the way Iceland approach this match, although with Croatia awaiting them in their final group outing they will know that this is realistically their best chance to pick up a World Cup win.

The last team to avoid defeat in their maiden two World Cup outings was Senegal in 2002, and a similar run to that one for Iceland would leave an abiding mark on the tournament, just as the African outfit did 16 years ago.

Iceland's record at major tournaments is hugely impressive too, with only one defeat from six matches at Euro 2016 and so far this summer, winning two and drawing three in that time.

Whatever happens on Friday, Iceland will go into their final game still in with a chance of reaching the last 16, but victory over Nigeria would make that eminently more possible.

Recent form: D
Recent form (all competitions): DLLLDD


Team News

Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson on June 2, 2018© Reuters

Iceland are expected to be without Burnley winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who picked up a muscle injury against Argentina and is unlikely to recover in time for this match.

Rurik Gislason replaced Gudmundsson against Argentina and looks the most likely to come into the starting lineup in his stead, but Iceland could be otherwise unchanged from the opening-game draw.

Alfred Finnbogason is his side's form player, scoring in each of his last three international appearances, although Iceland have failed to win any of those games.

Nigeria vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi will be hoping for a recall after being dropped for the opener, and Oghenekaro Etebo - scorer of the own goal in that match - could be the man to make way.

With goals required, Ahmed Musa could also be handed a start, although to do so he would likely have to usurp either Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi or Odion Ighalo in the starting lineup.

Nigeria possible starting lineup:
Uzoho; Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Idowu; Ndidi, Mikel, Onazi; Moses, Ighalo, Iwobi

Iceland possible starting lineup:
Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, R Sigurdsson, Magnusson; Hallfredsson, Gunnarsson; G Sigurdsson, Bjarnason, Gislason; Finnbogason


Head To Head

There has only been one previous meeting between these two nations, and that saw Iceland run out convincing winners by a 3-0 scoreline in August 1981.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Nigeria 1-1 Iceland

Nigeria should pose more of an attacking threat considering they simply have to start scoring goals, but Iceland are not an easy team to breach. It is a match which could go either way, but we are backing Iceland to come away with another World Cup point.


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Who will win Friday's World Cup Group D clash between Nigeria and Iceland?

Nigeria
Draw
Iceland
Nigeria
20.8%
Draw
32.3%
Iceland
46.9%
A general shot of a Premier League football ahead of the Premier League clash between Everton and West Ham United at Goodison Park on October 30, 2016
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