Iceland’s highly anticipated World Cup debut ended with a memorable 1-1 draw against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Now, they’ll look to go one better and claim World Cup victory number one.
Nigeria, meanwhile, must show more life than they displayed in a 2-0 loss to Croatia which slightly closed the window on their advancement.
Iceland may be the tournament’s feel-good story as more of the world continues to take them seriously as a side. But a youthful Nigeria team expect to pose a serious challenge as they look to regroup and prove their own worth in Russia.
From passionate fans made for television to a manager perhaps on the hot seat, there is plenty about this match to look forward to. Here are five things:
1 Those Icelandic bullies are back
First, Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, Lionel Messi.
It appears another football superstar has a problem with the way Iceland plays the game. Messi felt their physical, full-bore attention to him Saturday was not an acceptable form of game planning.
Did he really think he would not be Iceland's focus?
Messi's whining comes two years after Ronaldo chided the Icelandic warriors following Portugal's 1-1 draw with them in Euro 2016, citing his own disdain for that smothering style of football that has become strákarnir okkar's trademark.
Obviously, Iceland won't change their tactics or mess with a formula that's worked well over the last two years. They also probably don't care what two of the world's best players think.
Nor should they, and just because Iceland are comfortable without the ball, their attacks can be dangerous. They've totalled six goals in the last four games.
Nigeria do not have a true star on their roster, so there is not expected to be any backlash from their side this contest. But there's always Luka Modric and Croatia next week.
2 Is the heat on Rohr?
Nigerian manager Gernot Rohr is expected shake up his lineup after their lacklustre offensive performance against Croatia. He took post-match heat from the Nigerian media and some former national team members, who called out his personnel and positioning decisions.
With the Super Eagles desperately in need of a result against Iceland, Rohr is apparently under the microscope after many felt he did not properly utilise the strengths of players like Alex Iwobi and John Obi Mikel.
Reports also surfaced that the German coach was questioned by the Nigeria Football Federation following the loss. However, the NFF has refuted such news.
Regardless, Rohr has his work cut out for him from a managerial standpoint. Forget that Nigeria are the youngest team at the World Cup, Rohr must not only field a lineup that's more creative than was against Croatia but his tactical decisions will be scrutinised at every turn from just about anybody who matters in Nigeria football.
3 National watch party
As expected, Iceland fans were out in full force Saturday in Moscow, clad in their nordic helmets with horns. It seemed like all 330,000-plus residents of the tiny country were on hand for the opener against Argentina.
Another massive Iceland contingent is expected to be in Volgograd. Viewers of the game will be aware just how many Iceland fans make the trip - in all their thunder-clapping union - as they've again blossomed into favourites of television outlets covering the tournament.
Fox Sports in the United States also likes to give viewers looks at those supporters not fortunate enough to be in Russia. Several shots of fans gathered in mass, some wearing winter jackets, watching outside in Reijkivek cheering on their faithful were common Saturday.
Practically all of those remaining in the country of Iceland watched Saturday's match, and perhaps that number can reach 100 percent for this contest.
4 No time for a hangover
Iceland's effort to earn a point against Argentina was a major highlight of the first round of group matches, but that's in the past. Heimir Hallgrimsson's side still have plenty of work to do as they cast aside the cautious euphoria of their maiden World Cup performance.
And whilst Nigeria don't offer the same brand-name calibre as Argentina, they are a desperate squad at the moment. They will look to attack more and make better use of their speed.
Don't forget, the two scores they allowed against Croatia came on an own-goal and a penalty. That's among the few positives they can take from their opener.
So, it will be interesting to see how Iceland handle themselves in a match they are favoured.
Will they be able to ride the momentum they've built and keep their foot on the gas? Or will there be a letdown after their impressive performance as World Cup debutants?
5 Second time might be the charm
For a fourth consecutive World Cup, Nigeria have failed to win their opener. Though three of those games were losses, hope might not be lost.
Four years ago in Brazil, the Super Eagles drew with Iran to begin the tournament but bounced back to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 and made it to the round of 16. That remains their only victory in the last 13 World Cup contests.
Another piece of history that favors Nigeria, who could sport their jazzy, popular home kit:
They've never been blanked in three consecutive World Cup matches, which is what they will try to avoid Friday whilst also looking to end a five-game (0-1-4) winless stretch overall.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 8 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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