After the 2-0 loss to Croatia, nothing but a win against Iceland will enhance Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup hopes.
The team can, however, use Spain as a positive reference point. The 1982 World Cup host lost their opening game of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, going down 1-0 to Switzerland, before going on to lift football’s greatest prize after defeating the Netherlands by the same scoreline in the final in Johannesburg.
Nigeria met with a similar fate when they were brushed aside by Croatia, with the Blades carving them open at will and sealing a win they thoroughly deserved.
Gernot Rohr, calm and phlegmatic, will not have enjoyed his side’s approach, nor is he likely to forget the ease with which his central defensive pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong were so ruthlessly exposed by the unstoppable Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic.
Two further group matches remain with the first, against Iceland on Friday in Volgograd, giving Rohr’s men a chance to bounce back from the loss suffered by the former African champions.
The Eagles boss could also be considering a call-up for Ahmed Musa, perhaps as part of a false nine set-up, should he decide to sacrifice Odion Ighalo. In defence, Rohr also has the option of bringing in Tyrone Ebuehi and reorganising a sluggish Nigerian backline.
Skipper Mikel Obi didn’t thrive behind the striker, with Alex Iwobi favoured to take that role on Friday.
The team lost their last two pre-World Cup friendlies to England and the Czech Republic but defeat to the Croats revealed greater weaknesses, prompting many to conclude that changes must be made on Friday.
Iceland adopt the 4-5-1 formation against stronger teams, which usually means most sides they play against.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, aside, Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson has few household names in a team that nevertheless plays with a swagger. Iceland combine an aggressive pressing game with a fluent passing approach.
Nigeria should be too strong for the Europeans on paper, but the extent to which the Eagles have recovered from the debacle against Croatia will be the key to their World Cup future.