Two Group D rivals will square off Friday afternoon in a pivotal encounter for qualification to the next round. A Nigeria/Iceland showdown brings a nice style of contrasts and should make for a pretty intriguing second group stage match. Of course, these teams are paired with Argentina and Croatia within their group, and though Iceland and Nigeria aren’t exactly favored to progress – a good showing on Friday could change the narrative entirely.
For Iceland they played a stellar match and the game they were expected to against a much more powerful Argentina side. They stifled the creativity and didn’t allow too many high quality chances. Lionel Messi had a ton of possession but Iceland did an excellent job of limiting his ability. With a point in the bag already, Iceland likely see this fixture as one they need to go out and win if they are to progress. Can that fit within their style? It will be interesting to see their tactics against a Nigerian squad seeking retribution following an opening day dud.
The Nigerians have to enter motivated and confused after their shocklingly mediocre outing against Croatia. They were dominated in every facet of the match and really failed to mount an attacking threat at all. Against Iceland, that’s only going to become more difficult – and in a match they need to go out and win, it remains to be seen if this team has the talent to break down a defensively stout Icelandic side.
This match will be captivating as it pits the speed of the Nigerians against a defensively rigid and detail-oriented Icelandic group. It’s a match both teams think they can and should win, and the tactics should make it intriguing as both sides jockey to advance from a competitive Group D. Read on below for a full match preview and betting prediction for Iceland vs. Nigeria.
Nigeria vs. Iceland Betting Odds:
Over 2 (-120)
Under 2 (+100)
Nigeria vs. Iceland Pick:
Coming off their opening match defeat to Croatia, Nigeria will really need to push and go for the victory against Iceland. If they don’t it puts them in an even tougher position next week when they’ll need to defeat Argentina. The Super Eagles surprised in their first match with a pretty punchless showing against Croatia. They rarely threatened and the Croatians nullified a lot of their speed and attacking flair.
Against Iceland, I’d expect more of the same. It just seems like it’s a little too soon for this generation of Nigerian soccer. They have a ton of nice young players and talent – but have struggled to put it all together. While they are dominant in terms of athleticism and skill vs. Iceland, the defensive rigidity and compact nature of their opponents on Friday will be troubling and frustrating to break down. Nigeria seemed like a squad full of nice pieces and good athletes, but were out-of-sync when they possessed the ball.
Against Iceland, look for Nigeria to try and dictate more of the pace. Wilfred Ndidi is an excellent midfielder and should be able to win the majority of the balls and control the middle of the pitch against Iceland. He’ll also play a key role in being able to shut down Iceland’s main creator in the talented Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Up front it is believed Nigeria will have a different striking duo. Ahmed Musa will enter the lineup and be paired with the young and talented Kelechi Iheanacho. That duo should provide a different look and their speed and physicality should cause some difficulty for Iceland’s defense. Their wide midfielders of Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses will also be instrumental in dictating the pace of play and swinging in some beautiful balls off of crosses.
Nigeria is the second youngest team at Russia 2018 and it showed in their first match. They’re also a much better team compared to how they fared against Croatia and that should be evident against Iceland. Nigeria will get more time on the ball and their speedy runs and creativity could result in a goal. But Iceland will not concede much of anything, and one of Iceland’s main strengths is their proficiency off of set pieces. Their height and energy at attacking corners and free kicks is lethal, and unfortunately for the Super Eagles they admittedly have not defended these well in recent matches.
Though Nigeria likely needs the full three points from this match, this squad isn’t ready to defeat Iceland. They’re too structured and organized at the back and will really limit the Nigerian speed and attacking prowess. Meanwhile, Nigeria themselves aren’t good enough to defend for 90 minutes and will likely get caught on an Icelandic counter. In the end, I see this match being a draw. Nigeria won’t defeat Iceland, and Iceland will likely be fine with a point. It sets up a critical final match vs. Croatia for them – but they topped them in qualification and have to feel like they can do so once again.
MY PICK = Draw (+210)