Full time: Nigeria 2, Iceland 0
Ahmed Musa and the Super Eagles exposed Iceland’s players in the second half, catching them creeping up on offense and then unleashing quick counterattacks. Iceland, meanwhile, didn’t seem to have much strategy apart from set pieces, and those were in short supply over the final 45 minutes. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s ham-footed penalty shot didn’t help, either.
The result not only gives Nigeria a crucial three points; it also gives new life to Argentina. The two teams meet Tuesday in Nizhny-Novgorod. Iceland will need to beat Croatia to have any hope. The Group D permutations are explained in more detail here.
Iceland: vs. Croatia in Rostov-on-Don, June 26, 2 p.m.
Nigeria: vs. Argentina in Nizhny-Novgorod, June 26, 2 p.m.
Want smart analysis, opinions, viewing guides and more from the World Cup? Sign up for our month-long newsletter. Every match day through the final July 15.
What a miss!
After referee Matthew Conger fails to call a penalty shot when Alfred Finnbodvarsson is taken down in the box, he goes to the replay monitor. The result: penalty shot!
And then Gylfi Sigurdsson misses it high and right. The fates are not with Iceland today.
Here’s the review:
Here’s the miss:
Seconds after hitting the post, Musa takes a long outlet and meanders with the ball into the box before cutting to his right, getting Halldorsson on the ground and finishing the job in the 75th minute. 2-0 Nigeria, and this one seems over.
Another Iceland sub
Jon Bodvarsson comes off in the 71st minute, replaced by Bjorn Sigurdarson.
Sigurdsson off for Iceland
About 15 minutes after taking the knock to the back of the head, Sigurdsson departs for Sverrir Ingasson.
A well-set-up break by Nigeria is finished in the 49th minute by Ahmed Musa, who controls a cross from Victor Moses and buries it into the net. It’s his third career World Cup goal, the most in Nigeria’s history.
Iceland defender Ragnar Sigurdsson took a gash to the back of his head on the play — Musa incidentally clipped him as he continued his run after the goal — and is getting bandaged up. Long stoppage here, to be tacked on at the end.
Change for Nigeria
Idowu out, Tyronne Ebuehi in for Nigeria to start the second half. The Super Eagles actually begin with a good chance by Oghenekaro Etebo that Hannes Halldorsson had to dive to stop. Their best of the game.
Halftime: Iceland 0, Nigeria 0
Let’s just say there have been more exciting first halves in the history of the sport. Apart from Iceland’s brief flurry at the end there, it was 45 unexceptional minutes. Iceland has two shots on goal. Nigeria has zero.
It’s the 12th 0-0 halftime draw of this World Cup, but we haven’t yet seen that score after 90 minutes.
A card, and a chance
Brian Idowu is shown a yellow card near the end of the first half for a rough tackle. The ensuing free kick almost finds its way into the goal off Alfred Finnbogason’s side. So if anyone says nothing happened this half, point to this.
Not much to report
We’re now 22 minutes in and neither team has established any sort of clear edge. Iceland’s set pieces — we’re including deep throw-ins here — have been parried away without much worry by Nigeria (see below for more on its troubles in such situations). The Super Eagles, meanwhile, aren’t connecting when they’re on the attack.
We’ve had our first viking thunderclap, though.
Sun an issue?
Iceland has had a couple of set-piece chances early, and Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho seems to be battling the sun when the action is to his right. We’ll see if Iceland picks up on this.
Hot in here
It’s somewhere around 90 degrees in Volgograd. How will a team with “ice” in its name fare in such conditions? Time will tell.
Nice tribute to Ikeme by Iceland
Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme is missing the World Cup as he battles leukemia. Iceland posted this nice photo on Sunday:
Get fired up
Deadspin’s Timothy Burke unearthed this Iceland-Argentina highlight clip set to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and he is correct in proclaiming its awesomeness. Watch it here.
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.
Read more about the World Cup: