The Super Eagles will be looking to bounce back (we hope so) after their depressing opening-day defeat to Croatia when they face Iceland today by 4:00pm at Volgograd Arena. The Nigerian team will be looking to capitalise on Croatia’s 3-0 drubbing of Argentina yesterday to grab second spot in the group. However, things will not be easy against Iceland who also have a good cause to win against Nigeria because it puts them in a more commanding position to qualify for the next stage.
Nigeria will face a sterner test against Iceland who have proved very difficult to break down and are capable of getting goals when they need to. The morale of Nigerians back home has been greatly increased after Croatia’s 3-0 victory against the ‘mighty Argentina’ for two reasons; the doors of qualification have been swung open for the winner between Iceland and Nigeria today, and if Croatia could only beat Nigeria 2-0 in a game they did not really play that great, and they could convincingly beat Argentina – surely we are not as bad as we think right? (Flawed thinking, I think we are that bad and Croatia showed us ‘Messi’… oh sorry, mercy).
Things are quite simple for the Super Eagles, if we lose, we are out. As a matter of fact, I think it will be best if Nigeria setups on a low block and defend the hell out of the game – if we can. Iceland will come out to win that game and we can catch them on the counter-attack. We certainly hope the issues at the back have been sorted out, if they can be. The set-piece issue is serious, and frankly I am tired of typing ‘set-piece’ on my keyboard. Nonetheless, there are some positives because there is recognition that it is a weakness and the team is working hard to curb it. Reports came out this week that the Super Eagles were training on set-pieces at a volleyball court in Russia – good stuff.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr, needs some working on to. He needs to show more tactical flexibility – I used to rate him very highly, now I kind of think he has lost his mind. He should play a 5-3-2, it is our best formation. Take Mikel Obi out or put him in the midfield pivot. Victor Moses should be deployed as a right wing-back, Kelechi Ihenacho should be included in the starting line-up and Alex Iwobi should play more centrally – Nigeria’s play has to revolve around him -, unless we will be slain by the mighty Viking sword.
Nigerians are marvellously religious, it is so fascinating. We always believe God will do it for us without the required effort. Maybe we think that they do not pray in Iceland? God is a just God, and we should ask ourselves do we really deserve to win the game based on preparation, effort and quality? We prayed three times in the game against Croatia and we lost – some results require skill and not anointing (I mean no disrespect to the overly religious). The time for optimism is over for me, Nigerians should follow suit.
As important as this game is to us, we are not good enough to score a goal in the World Cup to be honest in my very informed assessment (except it’s a penalty or against Argentina). Peru and Iran are better sides who have failed to score. Yes I know Iran scored but it was an own goal. Therefore I believe Iceland will win 1-0, but as a Nigerian I will gladly accept a 0 – 0 scoreline. Iceland’s strength at set-pieces with Gylfi Sigurdsson will be a worry. I sincerely hope I am wrong.
- 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.
Source: BBC Sport.