Iceland could change their line-up but not their approach for their World Cup encounter with Nigeria in Volgograd on Friday, while the Super Eagles remain confident of a result to give themselves a chance of reaching the knock-out stage.
“We expect to win,” Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said Thursday of his expectations for the Group D game.
Victory would be the first for Iceland at their debut World Cup after opening with a 1-1 draw against Argentina at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on Saturday, and could put a foot through the door to the last 16.
A second defeat meanwhile for Nigeria, following a 2-0 loss to Croatia, will put them out of the running for the knock-out phase and possibly cost German coach Gernot Rohr his job.
“For me it’s not a question to lose this game. I think we won’t lose so I don’t ask this question myself,” Rohr said at the Volgograd Arena.
“You can ask after the game but I can tell you we will not lose.”
Rohr said Nigeria “will have the tactics to win the match” and said his team were well organized against Croatia but were unfortunate to lose after conceding “two stupid goals” in an own goal and penalty.
Rohr also defended his decision to deploy captain John Mikel Obi as an attacking rather than a defensive midfielder in the defeat, saying no one had complained during the team’s successful qualifying campaign.
The fierce heat in Volgograd, where temperatures are above 30 degrees Celsius, is more likely to favour Nigeria, Hallgrimsson told reporters.
But Rohr said of the heat: “Let’s have a little advantage also. They have, how many, 20,000 from Iceland? It will be an away game for us. We already had in Kaliningrad about 25,000 Croatian people and only 250 from Nigeria.
“It will be the same tomorrow. Perhaps the temperature is better (for Nigerian players) but a lot of them are playing in Europe and they are not so used (to it) now. If it is an advantage we will try to take advantage of it.”
Both coaches highlighted teamwork and organization as the key, with Rohr saying it was a match between “two collectives,” with Iceland the more experienced and Nigeria the youngest squad at the tournament.
Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson said: “We know what works for us. We need to have everyone rowing in the same direction if we are going to beat bigger teams, better teams.”
And while Iceland will be routinely working on set pieces, it may be that after conceding two goals following corners against Croatia, Nigeria may not feel as confident about them, Hallgrimsson said.
“They are a physically strong team, quick, good athletes all of them, a big running capacity,” he said.
“They play direct and are a very strong attacking side. I have to give credit to their coach, Rohr, for their organization.”
Iceland will make one enforced change as Burnley winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson is unlikely to recover from a calf strain suffered in the draw against Argentina. Other changes look likely.
“We always had a plan in our mind so there will definitely be some changes,” the coach said.
“We have been rotating the team very much in preparations and other players have done well so we will not change our (tactical) plans for this game.”