Nigeria look ahead to Iceland
The negativity surrounding the Nigeria camp both on and off the pitch has been extremely distracting for many over the last few days, but now, it’s time to put all of that to rest as the Super Eagles prepare for their next test in Russia. They’ll be taking on underdogs Iceland at Volgograd Arena today, in a game which could see them crash out of the tournament depending on how results go elsewhere. They’ve had almost a week to recover and bounce back from the loss against Croatia in their opener, and while their preparations may not have been ideal, they’ve got the squad and they’ve got the heart necessary to overcome the challenge of Iceland.
The 4pm kickoff will come almost 24 hours after Argentina have taken on Croatia, in a game which could well set the tone for this one depending on the result. Group D was viewed as the unofficial Group of Death when everything was drawn out back in December, and it seems as if it’s going to play out that way. While Iceland may have initially been seen as the whipping boys it appears as if the Nigerians are already being written off by neutral fans, media members and pundits alike. There could well be changes on the way for Nigeria as they attempt to fix any and all mistakes that came out of the Croatia game, with vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi reportedly being in line for a return to the squad. Ahmed Musa will also be attempting to make a name for himself at the expense of the Icelandic back four, although one key factor that could play a role in this game is experience. Nigeria have the youngest average squad out of all 32 teams competing in Russia, with one of their main issues holding them back being their inability to defend set pieces in the proper manner.
It often doesn’t matter how well they play throughout the course of any given international encounter, because more often than not, they’re undone by a free-kick, corner or avoidable penalty. They need to iron out these issues, especially seeing as Iceland appear to be even harder to break down than Croatia were. Even the mighty Lionel Messi struggled to gain any sort of momentum against the supposed minnows, missing a penalty in the process. Their organisation is frightening at times and they seem to soak up the atmosphere generated by the crowd, more so than any other team at the tournament. While they may be small in size, it might be time for everyone to realise that they aren’t a disadvantaged team by any means – they’re a well-oiled unit, and Gernot Rohr will have to mastermind a strong game plan in order to beat them.