Iceland fans have been on a high for several years now. After finally breaking through to make their first appearance at the European Championships in 2016, the national team has now reached the pinnacle of world sport – the FIFA World Cup. No one expects Iceland to succeed in what is a difficult group, but then no one expected them to get a draw against Argentina…
The early market was with Iceland in this incredibly close matchup, and they have firmed slightly thanks to their performance. This is the first time in an organised FIFA tournament that they will start at lower odds than their opposition, and it’s difficult to question after Nigeria proved to be no match for Croatia, a team Iceland had the better of in qualifying.
Yet Iceland have almost no experience against African nations, whereas Nigeria are more than familiar with European football. Nigeria have also been there and done it at five previous World Cups, reaching the second round on three occasions, putting them up alongside Cameroon as the best African performers at World Cup tournaments.
Perhaps the sportsbooks, much like us punters, are hoping that Iceland will go on another run like they did in 2016. Their 2-1 defeat of England in their Round of 16 match will go down in history as one of the greatest upsets in history. But is that enough to suggest they can match it with a team like Nigeria, a totally different proposition in terms of playing style and athleticism?
What is certain is that both teams will enter this match with it all to play for. With Croatia to come, Iceland will be aware that points will be necessary in this match if they are any chance of progressing. Nigeria too will be on the front foot, as a defeat here would rule them out of the second round.
It’s not easy to pick the result of this match, we feel as though both sides will enter the match in a defensive manner, determined not to give any chances to their opponents. It will come down to a few big moments, and will likely end in a low-scoring draw or 1-0 victory to either side.
Nigeria enter as the outsiders, but only just. They can be picked up at +190. Remarkably, the draw is around the same price, and possibly the lowest we have ever seen for a competitive football match (+211). Iceland will enter as favourites, although only just. They are available at +154.
We can’t split the teams here. We’re going with the draw and are leaning towards the 0-0 although believe 1-1 isn’t out of the question.