Nigeria take on Iceland on Friday, seeking to salvage their faltering World Cup campaign but wary of the Nordic team’s capacity to go toe to toe with their supposed superiors. Coach Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles – who brought the youngest squad to Russia, with an average age of around 25 years of age – have now won just one of their past 13 games at World Cups.
Nigeria reached the knockout phase at the 2014 World Cup, but slipped to a 2-0 defeat in their Group D opener against Croatia in Kaliningrad, courtesy of an Oghenekaro Etebo own-goal and a Luka Modric penalty. Their side, including 19-year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, were almost unrecognisable from the team beaten by France in the last 16 four years ago. Iceland are buoyant after what their coach Heimir Hallgrimsson described as a “schoolbook example” of how to defend against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Messi complained that “Iceland didn’t want to play” but the Nordic minnows, playing in their first-ever World Cup, were unimpressed by the criticism.