Iceland coach expects a victory over Nigeria

Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, seen here during training, played the full game against Argentina after winning his race to get ready for the Finals and is now fully fit, according to coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.
Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, seen here during training, played the full game against Argentina after winning his race to get ready for the Finals and is now fully fit, according to coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GROUP D

Nigeria v Iceland

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VOLGOGRAD • Iceland midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson has not recovered from the calf injury he picked up against Argentina and is set to miss today's crucial Group D clash with Nigeria.

Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said yesterday that the injury means he will make changes to his line-up but boldly predicted his side, who held Argentina to a 1-1 draw, would beat the Super Eagles in Volgograd.

"We expect to win," he told reporters at the Volgograd Arena.

"It is very unlikely that Joey will play. But he's getting better every day, and is in good hands."

He added that the Burnley winger would be replaced by Olafur Skulason if he does not make it.

Gudmundsson was forced off after an hour against Argentina but there was better news on Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had faced a race against time to be fit for the tournament.

He played the full 90 minutes of the opening game and has recovered completely.

"He's 100 per cent fit. Match fit and ready to play," said Hallgrimsson. "We have been rotating the team in preparation so we are ready to switch it around and it doesn't change our plans how we will approach this game."

Iceland are buoyant after their shock result against Argentina. And captain Aron Gunnarsson said it was the team's unity and spirit that enabled them to keep punching above their weight on the world stage, having famously reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

"I've always said that when everyone is rowing in the same direction then anything is possible in football," the midfielder said.

Nigeria lost their opening match 2-0 to Croatia and Hallgrimsson said he expected the Africans to come out firing.

"This is a must-win game for Nigeria, and that makes it a little bit psychologically different, they have to win," he said.

"This group is going to be decided in the last minutes, in the last game.

"It's going to be down to some margins, a set piece, a goal in injury time. This is how this group is going to be played."

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, who used to be a zombie film director, has also warned his team not to be ambushed by surprise attacks.

"Nigeria will be difficult to beat. They are fast and more direct than Argentina. It will be a different game in many ways," he said.

Iceland will be trying their best not to melt in the fierce heat of Volgograd today. Weather forecasters are predicting temperatures of 32 deg C at kick-off time, 10 deg hotter than when they played Argentina last Saturday.

"It's probably better for Nigeria than Iceland to play in these temperatures," Hallgrimsson added.

"We will think about that when we do the plan. Everyone has to do it in 30 deg C so we just have to do it like everyone else."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Iceland coach expects a victory over Nigeria'. Print Edition | Subscribe