Iceland (0-1-0, 1 point) vs. Nigeria (0-0-1, 0 points)
Group D, Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
A world of possibilities has opened up for both these sides in a group that was supposed to be dominated by Argentina and Croatia. The former’s disastrous loss to the latter on Thursday turned this match into one of the most intriguing of the week. If Iceland wins, it will then need just a draw in its finale against Croatia to advance — and maybe not even that. If Nigeria wins, it could then eliminate Argentina with a win or draw in their meeting next week. A draw here would leave things unsettled for all three teams, and set up plenty of drama on Tuesday.
Iceland is in this position thanks to its 1-1 draw with Argentina, in which Lionel Messi missed a second-half penalty kick. Winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson left that contest early with a calf injury, leaving his availability Friday in doubt. But Iceland can rely both on its notable size and strength, and on its recent history: The team was the underdog darling of Euro 2016, earning a draw against eventual champion Portugal in group play and sending England home with a round of 16 win.
Nigeria’s weakness comes on set pieces, an Icelandic strength. In its World Cup history, Nigeria has yielded 52 percent of its goals on set pieces, according to the BBC, which says that’s the worst rate of any nation in that span. The two goals Nigeria yielded in its opening loss to Croatia last week came on a deflected corner kick and a penalty.
When: Friday, June 22, 11 a.m. Eastern.
How to watch on TV: Fox.
How to stream online: Fox Sports and the Fox Soccer Match Pass apps and FoxSportsGo.com.
How to watch in Spanish: Telemundo.
How to watch in Canada: Bell Media’s TSN and CTV networks, the TSN GO app and TSN.ca/live.
How to watch in Nigeria: Satellite Channels or Local Stations
Iceland (0-1-0, 1 point)
- Last showing in the World Cup: This is Iceland’s World Cup debut.
- Best finish: This is Iceland’s World Cup debut.
- Notable: Iceland is the smallest nation, by population, ever to qualify for the World Cup.
- FIFA world ranking: 22. ELO world ranking: 24.
Nigeria (0-0-1, 0 points)
- Last showing in the World Cup: Round of 16, 2014.
- Best finish: Round of 16, 2014, 1998, 1994.
- Notable: In their last 13 World Cup matches, the Super Eagles have just one victory, a 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
- FIFA world ranking: 48. ELO world ranking: 47.
Players to watch
How about Iceland’s goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, who upset the entire group dynamic by stopping that Messi penalty kick, and also happens to be a filmmaker. “Up to the age of 29, my main job was film and football was an aside,” Halldorsson told CNN. The 34-year old plays his club football for Danish side Randers FC. Nigeria is young and speedy, but must take advantage of opportunities to create space. Winger Victor Moses, a 27-year-old Premier League veteran who plays for Chelsea, will have to make an impact.
Iceland: vs. Croatia in Rostov-on-Don, June 26, 2 p.m.
Nigeria: vs. Argentina in Nizhny-Novgorod, June 26, 2 p.m.
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