Iceland already have a point in the bag while Nigeria is pointless with a two-goal deficit. History reminds us that these usurpers from Iceland started the same way at Euro 2016 – with a hard-fought 1-1 result against Portugal, who went on to win the tournament.
History for Nigeria’s Super Eagles is that they have never qualified from a World Cup group after losing or drawing their first match. Can these Eagles then rewrite history? Argentina’s 3-0 capitulation on Thursday gives both countries a good chance of making it out of the group; so who will grab the bull by the horns?
There will be more Icelandic supporters in the Volgograd Arena, making the Viking clap resound; but weather reports indicate the temperature could between 32 and 35 degrees Celcius, a part that could help the Super Eagles.
Head to head
Never met before!
Current Form [Last 5 matches]
|Mexico 3 – 0 Iceland||Nigeria 0 – 2 Serbia|
|Iceland 1 – 3 Peru||Nigeria 1 – 1 Congo DR|
|Iceland 2 – 3 Norway||England 2 – 1 Nigeria|
|Iceland 2 – 2 Ghana||Nigeria 0 – 1 Czech Rep.|
|Argentina 1 – 1 Iceland||Croatia 2 – 0 Nigeria|
Three duels to watch
Gylfi Sigurdsson v Wilfred Ndidi
The Everton man will move around – having been given the license to roam. He will also be the man on all the set pieces, for he can deliver precisely and accurately. Ndidi can tackle but he can also be drawn into giving away cheap fouls. The Leicester man must rein in his instincts.
Aron Gunnarsson v Mikel Obi
Mikel could not work any magic against the Croats but he should have more time on the ball against Iceland even though Gunnarsson will be on his case as soon as he moves into the offensive third.
Birkir Bjarnason v Abdullahi Shehu
Two hard workers are expected to collide on Nigeria’s right flank if Rohr does not change Shehu for Tyronne Ebuehi. Where the right-back was not offensive against the Croats, he would have to put in more of a forward shift against an Iceland side that would be more defensively committed.
Notable stats after the first match
Referee in charge: 39-year-old American based in New Zealand – Matthew Conger, will be the centre referee. Conger has the distinction of having been named New Zealand’s best referee in 2017.
Venue: The Volgograd Arena has had a reduced capacity for the World Cup; from 45, 500 to 43,713 and will be handed over to FC Rotor Volgograd after the tournament. FC Rotor Volgograd play in Russia’s second division.
World Cup Fact: Nigeria have won just one of their last 13 matches at the FIFA World Cup
Prediction: Iceland 1-2 Nigeria