Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup with a population around 335,000. They are, frankly, everyone’s favorite team to root for in this tournament other than your own country. Iceland would put itself in great shape to advance from Group D on Friday with a win over Nigeria, which would be eliminated from knockout round contention with a loss. The game is nearly a pick’em on the latest soccer odds.
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Nigeria v Iceland 2018 World Cup Group D Game Preview & Pick
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) 21 de junio de 2018
- When: Friday, 11 AM ET
- Where: Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia
- TV / Stream: Fox / Fox Sports Go
- 2018 World Cup Odds: Iceland +163 / Nigeria +184 / Draw +195 (Total at goals 2)
Why Bet on Nigeria?
- Confederation: CAF
- Head coach: Gernot Rohr
- Captain: John Obi Mikel
- FIFA Ranking: 48
Nigeria was a 2-0 loser to Croatia in Round 1 and will not advance with a loss here. It hasn’t been a great tournament thus far for the African nations. Five defeats in the six games featuring African teams in the first round of group stage offered little hope of new benchmarks being set, with Senegal’s 2-1 triumph over Poland the only bright point. No African country has ever got as far as the World Cup semi-finals, and only three times has the continent had a side progress to the last eight.
“There’s definitely been a decline,” said former Nigeria international Peter Odemwingie, who played at the last two World Cups.
How did Nigeria lose to Croatia? On an own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo in the 32nd minute and a penalty shot 19 minutes from time after William Troost-Ekong needlessly fouled Mario Mandzukic at a corner.
Nigeria became the first team in World Cup history to concede two consecutive own goals in the competition, with their last goal shipped in 2014 also coming in this manner. Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo had the first shot on target in this match in the 59th minute — the longest wait for a first attempt on target in a World Cup match so far this tournament.
Nigeria’s coach is German Gernot Rohr, a former Bayern Munich player who has also managed the national teams of Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. Of the teams at the World Cup, Nigeria had the youngest squad during the qualifying matches with an average age of just under 25.
“Nine out of the 11 players in the starting line-up against Croatia played their first 2018 World Cup match. Of course, nerves played a role there. But we worked on our set-pieces – both the offensive and the defensive ones. We know that we need to improve them,” Rohr said.
Iceland and Nigeria have met only once before, a friendly in 1981 at Reykjavik won 3-0 by the Nordic island nation.
Rohr on needing a result against Iceland: “The pressure is always there. It doesn’t matter if you play in your home country in front of thousands of people or you play at the World Cup. You do want to make the fans proud.”
- 23-F. Uzoho
- 6-L. Balogun
- 5-W. Troost-Ekong
- 2-B. Idowu
- 12-A. Shehu
- 10-J. Obi Mikel
- 11-V. Moses
- 18-A. Iwobi
- 4-W. Ndidi
- 8-O. Etebo
- 9-O. Ighalo
Why Bet on Iceland?
- Confederation: UEFA
- Head coach: Heimir Hallgrímsson
- Captain: Aron Gunnarsson
- FIFA Ranking: 22
Iceland is appearing in their first World Cup after a run to the quarter-finals in Euro 2016 which included a knockout win over England. Seven players from the team that qualified for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2011 played a decisive role in Iceland’s qualifying campaigns for the Euro in 2016 and the World Cup in 2018.
Iceland “beat” Argentina 1-1 in the opening round. Alfred Finnbogason’s close-range finish, his country’s first-ever goal in the World Cup finals, was the equalizer. However, it still took an excellent save from Hannes Halldorsson to keep out Lionel Messi’s 64th-minute penalty to salvage the draw.
“To save a penalty in the first game of the World Cup is like a dream scenario. To experience that, I guess you must concede a penalty. Since that happened, I just decided that now it was my turn. I was determined to save it,” Halldorsson, the man of the match, said after his astonishing performance at the Spartak Stadium.
Finnbogason’s goal after 23 minutes was the earliest scored for a nation playing in their first ever World Cup match since Rashidi Yekini netted after 21 minutes for Nigeria against Bulgaria on June 21, 1994. Iceland failed to record a single shot in the second half, while Argentina recorded 16 attempts on Iceland’s goal in that period.
Iceland’s manager, Heimir Hallgrimsson, was No. 2 to Swede Lars Lagerback who steered Iceland to Euro 2016. Iceland’s key player Gylfi Sigurdsson recovered from injury in time to play in Saturday’s draw against Argentina.
Interesting that Iceland is a 2018 World Cup Betting favorite against Nigeria, even though the latter country has 556 times the population of Iceland, and players that play in more well-known teams and leagues.
“We are not of the opinion that we are at all better than Nigeria. We know our strengths, and need to make the best of them,” Hallgrimsson said.
The coach says his team has to stick to their game plan. Lie deep, close spaces, let the Nigerians keep most of the possession, and be clinical on the counter.
- 1-H. Halldórsson
- 6-R. Sigurðsson
- 2-B. Sævarsson
- 18-H. Magnússon
- 8-B. Bjarnason
- 14-K. Árnason
- 20-E. Hallfreðsson
- 17-A. Gunnarsson
- 7-J. Guðmundsson
- 10-G. Sigurðsson
- 11-A. Finnbogason
Expert Final Prediction
Iceland 1 – Nigeria 1