Following the famous tussle that’s since become known as “The Arson of Argentina,” coach Heimir will be desperate to grab the crazed World Cup ox by its flag-strung horns against Nigeria. If Iceland can secure three points in their second outing, they’ll be in pole position to qualify from Group D as Croatia and Argentina clash tonight in Nizhny Novgorod. Given the situation, “The Darth Dentist” will almost certainly show more attacking intent in his team and formation in the battle people are calling “The Nullification Of Nigeria.”
Battleground: Volgograd Arena
Smite time: Friday 22nd June, 15:00 GMT
Horde News: Iceland
Possibility One: Tried and tested
The major dilemma to contend with is Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson’s calf muscle tear. The Burnley man is unlikely to start, although he will be assessed on match-day; like-for-like replacement and emerging sex bomb Rúrik Gíslason will almost certainly enter the fray. Heimir will have been encouraged by the attacking efficiency of our forwards against Argentina, and that could mean he trusts the same players to go and secure victory against Nigeria.
Faced with weaker opposition, Gylfi will be likely become the de facto second striker, with more freedom to play off Alfreð Finnbogason, who has three goals in his last three internationals. In the 4-4-1-1 formation, Emil Hallfreðsson and Aron Gunnarsson will still need help dealing with midfield runners, and Gylfi will have to stay disciplined when Iceland are defending.
Possibility Two: Go for broke
Against better opposition, Emil’s dutiful defensive work is a necessity, but against a weak and punch-drunk Nigeria side, it could be sacrificed. This could mean a move across into central midfield for Birkir Bjarnason to accompany Aron Gunnarsson, with Rúrik coming in on the right and Gylfi moving left. Jón Daði Böðvarsson would then slot in up-front alongside Alfreð.
The formation here would be tweaked to a traditional 4-4-2, with Gyfli and Jón Daði interchanging between playing out-wide and leading the line. This would provide our boys with more cutting edge, and the galloping legs of Birkir alongside ever-steadfast Aron would help prevent The Super Eagles from breaking through the lines. Emil notably struggled against Ghana and Norway when deployed in a midfield two in the warm-up friendlies.
Ultimately, whatever Heimir decides, tomorrow’s game is the “must win” of the group. Expect the usual from our boys, but with the handbrake off.
On paper, Nigeria have enough firepower to see them through the group, but in practice, they seem to lack any tangible identity or style. Coach Gernot Rohr’s tendency to tinker has resulted in disjointed performances from his players in recent games, with his side failing to threaten against a Croatia team that was “there for the taking”.
Characteristically, Rohr is expected to ring the changes against Aron Einar’s Barmy Army and the forlorn Odion Ighalo could be sacrificed, with Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho in line to start. Ahmed Musa could also be preferred to Alex Iwobi, while Tyronne Ebuehi is expected to replace Shehu Abdullahi in defence.
There is little doubt that the West Africans have the potential to hurt our boys, and key man Victor Moses will need to be kept under wraps. Their inexperience breeds an air of unpredictability, but when facing the challenge of breaking down the rigid and disciplined Iceland defence, their lack of real quality is likely to be exposed.
Defensively, they can be exploited, despite the protection provided by Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo. According to BBC Sport, since making their World Cup debut in 1994, 14 of the 27 goals they have conceded have come from dead-balls (52%). This plays to Iceland’s strengths—our boys will be licking their lips.
What’s written in the entrails?
Even for the impartial neutral – which we definitely aren’t – it’s hard to envisage anything other than a marauding Iceland victory. “The Arctic Fox in the Box” will pounce once again in the six-yard box for the first and “The Siren” will reach one trillion Instagram followers when he bends in a 25-yard scorcher.
Aron Einar’s Barmy Army 2–0 Nigeria.
How will the horde line up?
Hannes Þór Halldórsson, Randers
Hörður Björgvin Magnússon, CSKA Moscow
Kári Árnason, Víkingur
Ragnar Sigurðsson, Rostov
Birkir Már Sævarsson, Valur
Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, Everton
Aron Einar Gunnarsson, Cardiff
Birkir Bjarnason, Aston Villa
Rúrik Gíslason, Sandhausen
Jón Daði Böðvarsson, Reading
Alfreð Finnbogason, Augsburg
Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Rostov
Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson, Levski Sofia
Ari Freyr Skúlason, Lokeren
Albert Guðmundsson, PSV Eindhoven
Emil Hallfreðsson, Udinese
Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson, Rostov
How will Nigeria line-up?
Francis Uzoho, Deportivo La Coruña
Brian Idowu, Amkar Perm
William Troost-Ekong, Bursaspor
Leon Balogun, Brighton & Hove Albion
Tyronne Ebuehi, Benfica
Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City
Oghenekaro Etebo, Stoke City
John Obi Mikel, Tianjin Teda
Ahmed Musa, Leicester City
Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester City
Victor Moses, Chelsea
Elderson Echiéjilé, Cercle Brugge
Shehu Abdullahi, Bursaspor
Ogenyi Onazi, Trabzonspor
Joel Obi, Torino
Alex Iwobi, Arsenal
Odion Ighalo, Changchun Yatai
Read more about Iceland’s World Cup campaign here.