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Things to know about Super Eagles' World Cup foes Iceland

World Cup 2018 By: Linus Onyeze | 02/12/2017

Nigeria will play Iceland in their second group match at the 2018 World Cup, and it could be a game that will determine the Super Eagles’ fate at the biggest football showpiece. Both countries will meet for only the first time at senior level in Russia, and in some way, could determine both side’s fate at the mundial.

The Nordic country are on a high, and their football is on the rise – a rise which is believed to have been precipitated by their quarterfinal finish at the last Euros in France. While not being one of the more famous football countries from Europe, one must not ignore how far they have come.

Here, we take a look at some of the things you may not know about the Iceland national football team.

Who are their top players?

Gylfi Sigurðsson readily comes to mind, as he plays in the Premier League in England. The former Tottenham and Swansea midfielder currently plays for Everton, and is the most recognizable name in the current team, but there are others who equally make them thick.

The likes of Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson and captain Aron Gunnarsson are key members of the team, and have both contributed immensely to how they have been able to grow in leaps and bounds.

Who is their coach?

The Icelanders are currently led by Heimir Hallgrímsson. The 50-year old mostly coached female teams in Iceland, before becoming assistant to former coach Lars Lagerback in 2011. He became co-head coach with Lagerback in 2013, and together they reached the quarterfinals of the last Euros, before he led them to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup after Lagerback stepped down.

What is their style of play?
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Iceland usually plays the classic 4-4-2 formation. However, they can be flexible with their formation depending on the opponent. As with any formation, they can adjust the 4-4-2 to several others with simple positional switches. If the second striker drops deep it becomes 4-5-1, or 4-2-3-1, depending on how look at it. If the two wingers join the striker it's a 4-3-3, if one of the central midfielders comes forward - as Gylfi Sigurdsson does - it can turn into a 4-1-3-2.

How did they qualify for the World Cup?

Placed in the same group as Croatia, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland and Kosovo, Iceland surprised not a few people by topping the group, with 22 points from 10 matches while scoring 16 and conceding seven. They won seven of those games, drew one and lost just two.

What is their World Cup record?

The Russia 2018 World Cup will be their first, as they had not qualified for the World Cup before now.

What is their record against Nigeria?

They have not met Nigeria at Senior level before. The one in Russia will be their first-ever meeting.

How could they possibly fare against Nigeria at the World Cup?

The World Cup is still some six months away, so a lot could happen or change between now and then. But as earlier pointed, Iceland is not a side blessed with great individual players, but their efforts as a team cannot be taken for granted. They are usually a very compact and stubborn side to break down and Nigeria will need the X factor to bring them down on the 22nd June, 2018 at the 45,000 –capacity Volgograd Arena.
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