Iceland to continue playing to their strengths facing Nigeria (Preview)

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Volgograd (Russia), June 21 (IANS) Iceland won’t be changing their strategy much when they play Nigeria in their FIFA World Cup Group D’s second game here on Friday.

Iceland’s opening game of the tournament saw them hold Argentina to a 1-1 draw to give Heimar Hallgrimsson’s side a fighting chance of reaching the last 16. But to do that they realistically need to beat a Nigeria side which is disappointed in their first game when they lost 0-2 to Croatia, reports Xinhua news agency.

The achievement of the Icelandic side can be put into perspective by the fact that the country has a population 556 times smaller than Nigeria, but as they showed in the 2016 European Championships and in qualifying for Russia, Iceland are not going to be intimidated by anyone, but neither are they going to be overconfident.

“We don’t think we are better than Nigeria. We know our strengths, and need to make the best of them,” Hallgrimsson said in an interview with FIFA TV.

Nearly all of Iceland’s best recent results have come when they surrender possession to their rivals. Indeed, they had less than 30 per cent possession when they beat England in France in 2016 and drew against Argentina in Moscow five days ago.

“We knew they would have the possession, they have many of the best attacking players in the world. But we have a team that is at its best when we have the opposition in front of us, and we have clinical attacking players when we attack,” Iceland’s hero of that game, goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson said after facing Lionel Messi.

Hallgrimsson therefore is not predicting much of a change on Friday against a rival with players such as Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi or Jon Obi Mikel in their starting 11. Wilfred Ndidi and Etebo Oghenekaro will also feature in midfield. Nigeria lacked the important finishing touch during the loss to Croatia and they need to improve on their forward passing movement in order to breach the well-organised defensive structure of Iceland.

“We’ve tried to find what kind of playing style, what kind of characteristics this Icelandic team needs to have, and what identity an Icelandic national player needs to have. And this is the way for Iceland to be successful,” he said.

Hallgrimsson will have the support of Jóhann Berg Gudmundsson, Ragnar Sigurðsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aron Gunnarsson to help Iceland take to the Round-of-16.

Iceland can also expect to have around 20,000 fans cheering them on in Volgograd as they look to write another chapter in their incredible recent history.



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