Belgium 3 – 0 Iceland | UEFA Nations League

Belgium 3 - 0 Iceland | UEFA Nations League

Belgium secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Iceland in their opener for the UEFA Nations League.

Belgium started their campaign with a terrific win against Iceland which marked their 16th win from their last 18 competitive matches. Iceland were chasing a first win in the competition after losing their League A opener against Switzerland on Saturday but ended up in a 0-3 loss against Belgium in their Nations League A, Group 2 clash in Reykjavik.

The Red Devils were in charge from the second Eden Hazard stuck in a 29th-minute penalty after Romelu Lukaku had been pulled down. The Manchester United forward managed to grab the other two on Tuesday night.

Eden Hazard opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 29th minute as Belgium played their first competitive game since beating England in the third-place play-off at the World Cup 2018, before Lukaku, who had won the penalty, struck himself two minutes later.

Bustling forward Lukaku was bundled over by Sverrir Ingi Ingason and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Chelsea playmaker Hazard calmly sending Hannes Halldorsson the opposite way with the shot penalty.

Lukaku made it 2-0 to Belgium minutes later, shooting a close-range ball on the rebound that was decided to have crossed the line before Birkir Saevarsson managed to clear. The Manchester United striker then added a third 9 minutes from full time.

It was Belgium’s first game in the new competition and ended a run of 13 competitive matches unbeaten at home for Iceland, who were hammered 6-0 by Switzerland away in their opening Nations League game on Saturday. Iceland manager Erik Hamren has now lost his opening two games as a new manager, conceding 9 goals in the process, leaving the Nordic nation’s reputation for a miserly defense in tatters.

Hamren made three changes to the side that lost to the Swiss with Runar Sigurjonsson, Emil Hallfredsson and Hordur Magnusson coming in for Rurik Gislason, Gudlaugur Victor Palsson, and Bjorn Sigurdarson and his side looked much more solid in the opening minutes.

Belgium began with 9 of the players who started the World Cup third-place playoff win against England in Russia, with the injured Kevin De Bruyne replaced by Dries Mertens. Yet despite missing one of their central playmakers, there was no absence of creativity in the side.

Gylfi Sigurdsson had an early shot diverted as Iceland pushed forward, but once Belgium had taken a decisive 2-0 lead, the hosts strived to produce anything relating to a decent shot on goal.

In contrast, the Belgians poured forward, with Thomas Meunier hitting the bottom of the post midway through the second half, and Lukaku shooting a late one over the bar before driving the ball past Halldorsson to complete the match.

Switzerland 6 – 0 Iceland | UEFA Nations League

Switzerland 6 - 0 Iceland | UEFA Nations League

Switzerland secured a huge win in their UEFA Nations League debut with a 6-0 victory against Iceland.

It was an unhappy start for Iceland’s coach Erik Hamren and his team. Iceland’s national football team was beaten 6-0 by Switzerland in their opening game at the brand new UEFA Nation’s League tournament.

With key players missing through injury, including captain Aron Gunnarsson, and several first-team players having retired after the World Cup, Iceland were a team who did not manage to perform well. They have become renowned for making life difficult for their opponents in the World Cup but new manager Erik Hamren has plenty to ponder after watching his side lose in a terrible way against their hosts.

In a remarkable performance in St Gallen, Switzerland were 2-0 up at the halftime. Steven Zuber set the ball rolling for the Swiss with a thumping effort after 13 minutes and Deniz Zakaria tapped home the second ten minutes later after Hannes Halldorsson had dropped Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick. Shaqiri had another chance at a free-kick after the break which was diverted into his own net by Birkir Bjarnason. This put them 3-0 up.

Haris Seferovic, debutant Albian Ajet and fellow substitute Admir Mehmedi managed to add a goal in the scoresheet each against Iceland. With seven minutes remaining, substitute Admir Mehmedi capped a spectacular display with a tap-in from a Zakaria cross.

It could have been worse for Iceland but Seferovic had two further strikes chalked off for offside.

Iceland face Belgium on Tuesday, 12th September. Hopefully, by then, they’ll have corrected their mistakes and be ready for battle. On the other hand, Switzerland are also set to face Belgium in the next UEFA Nations League fixture but only on October 13th and this form of theirs will be instrumental when they face the third-placed team of World Cup 2018.

Hallgrimsson steps down as Iceland Coach after country’s first World Cup

Heimir Hallgrimsson - Iceland Coach

Heimir Hallgrimsson has resigned as the head coach for Iceland after spending 7 years with the national team.

The Icelandic Football Association (KSI) tweeted the announcement on Tuesday:“The FA of Iceland can now confirm that Heimir Hallgrimsson will not continue as head coach of the Icelandic men’s national team. Hallgrimsson steps down as Iceland coach at his own request after seven years in the job, having joined in 2011.”

In 2011 he was named as the assistant to then Iceland coach Lars Lagerback and 2 years later became the co-coach alongside the Swede, before collectively leading his nation to a historic quarter-final finish at UEFA EURO 2016 after beating England in the round of 16. Following Lagerback’s departure, Hallgrimsson assumed sole control of the team and they became the smallest country by population to qualify for the World Cup.

Hallgrimsson said in a statement:I feel comfortable and grateful for having been part of this strong team spirit that this group has first and foremost maintained. Part of a group that has led the way for future generations and did so many things for the first time in history. It is a privilege to leave the project at a point like today. The success and performance has created respect for Icelandic football.”

After a modest playing career, The 51-year-old became a dentist and proceeded to work part-time while coaching the national team. Hallgrimsson and Lagerback engineered Iceland’s success, guiding them into their first major tournament in 2016 before Hallgrimsson directed them to World Cup qualification for the first time in history. 

KSI chairman Gudni Bergsson admitted it was a blow to lose Hallgrimsson. He said:We had great hopes that Heimir would continue, but the conclusion is that Heimir will leave the team at his own request. I would like to thank KSI for the cooperation and wish him all the best in the future. KSI will now take the next step in recruiting a new national coach.”

Iceland were mighty impressive in their first World Cup in Russia. Even though they failed to reach the knockout stages, Iceland managed a sensational draw against last World Cup’s finalists Argentina.

FIFA World Cup: Iceland VS Croatia, Match Prediction

Iceland VS Croatia

Iceland VS Croatia, Kick-Off Time: 11:30 P.M. (IST)

Iceland faces Croatia on Tuesday at the Rostov-on-Don Arena as the Group D of the  FIFA World Cup 2018 reaches a dramatic conclusion.

Croatia has already qualified for the knockout phase following a 3-0 win over Argentina and is set to remain group winners even if they lose to Iceland as they sport a +5 goal difference. They made the perfect start to their campaign with victory over Nigeria and a rather impressive win over Argentina. With their place in the knockout stage now secure, they have the incentive of trying to replicate the nation’s magical run at France 1998. Before they set about that task, they can have a say on who joins them in the next round. Should they beat or draw with the Icelanders, they will send them home.

Iceland faces an uphill battle as their only chance of progressing to the next phase would be to beat Croatia and maintain a better goal difference than Argentina who faces Nigeria in the other Group D fixture. They started their World Cup campaign well by holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw but lost 2-0 to Nigeria. Three of the Icelandic players will feel right at home as Sverrir Ingason, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Bjorn Sigurdarson all play for Rostov.

Even a win may not be enough for Iceland, as they will need to keep an eye on Argentina’s meeting with Nigeria in Saint Petersburg. If Nigeria win, Iceland will be eliminated. If Argentina draw or win, it will all come down to whoever has the better goal difference.

Team News

Iceland: Iceland defender Ragnar Sigurdsson is a doubt after being forced off against Nigeria with a head injury while Johann Berg Gudmundsson might return from his injury.

CroatiaIvan Rakitic, Ante Rabic, Sime Vrsaljko, Mario Mandzukic, Marcelo Brozovic and Vedran Corluka are all one booking away from a ban. Hence Zlatko Dalic will have to think twice before letting them play.

Predicted Line-ups

Iceland: Hannes Halldorsson Birkir Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdson, Hordur Magnusson Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Johann Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason Alfred Finnbogason

Croatia: Lovre Kalinic Tin Jedvaj, Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Josip Pivaric Milan Badelj, Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric Marko Pjaca, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic

Key Players

IcelandGylfi Sigurdsson played a crucial role in the crucial draw against Argentina. The 28-year old is one of the most well-known and influential figures in the Icelandic side.

Croatia: Luka Modric has been the key in both of Croatia’s two victories in the World Cup. The 32-year old midfielder will be instrumental to Croatia’s campaign further in the knockout stages.

Form – Last 5

Iceland: L | D | D | L | L

Croatia: W | | W| L | W

Betting Odds – Sky Bet

Iceland 13/5

Draw 23/10

Croatia 6/5

Score Prediction

Iceland 1 – 1 Croatia: Even though Croatia have already qualified for the last 16, they would still want to head into the knockout stage with momentum. The match is bound to be tight, likely ending in a draw.

Where to watch?

TV Channels (India) – Sony Six – 11:30 P.M IST

In addition, you can live stream all the Matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup from 14th June to 15th July only on the Official SonyLIV App and the SonyLIV Website.

FIFA World Cup: Nigeria vs Iceland, Match Prediction

Nigeria VS Iceland

Nigeria vs Iceland, Kick-off Time: 8:30 P.M. (IST)

Nigeria will face Iceland on Friday at the Volgograd Arena after their disappointing defeat to Croatia. The Super Eagles did not look like they had a hunger for the 3 points at any point in the game. The Croatians ran circles around them until the final whistle blew and the score was 2-0. The Nigerians will be demanding a comeback against Iceland.

On the other hand, Iceland continued their astonishing fairytale exploits among international football giants in their opening tie at the 2018 World Cup, holding group favourites, Argentina to a 1-1 draw. Iceland will be looking to take the 3 points from Nigeria, who have shown little attacking threat up till now.

This match will be a significant one as the winners of this tie will have a strong chance to reach the final 16 of the World Cup.

Team News

Nigeria: No fresh injury concerns for The Super Eagles means that they would go with a similar lineup as their tie against Croatia. 

Iceland: Similar to Nigeria, Iceland do not have any new injury concerns and will likely replicate their starting eleven from their match against Argentina.

Key Players

Nigeria: Victor Moses was one of the better players on the pitch in their tie against Croatia. The Super Eagles will seek redemption in their match against Iceland and Moses will be a key player for them.

Iceland: Gylfi Sigurdsson played a crucial role in the crucial draw against Argentina. He is one of the most well-known and influential figures in the Icelandic side. The 28-year old attacking midfielder will be just as crucial in their upcoming tie against Nigeria.

Form – Last 5

Nigeria: L | LL | D | L

Iceland: D  | D | L| L | L

Betting Odds – Sky Bet

Nigeria 9/5

Draw 21/10

Iceland 17/10

Score Prediction

Nigeria 2 – 2 Iceland: This should be a fairly open-ended game. With the Nigerians determined to turn their campaign around and Iceland looking to capitalize on their astonishing draw against Argentina, this game will be a tough one to call. Hence a high-scoring draw seems to be on the cards.

Where to watch?

TV Channels (India) – Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony ESPN – 8:30 P.M IST

In addition, you can live stream all the Matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup from 14th June to 15th July only on the Official SonyLIV App and the SonyLIV Website

Messi misses penalty as Argentina vs Iceland match results in a draw

Argentina VS Iceland

First time World Cup playing Iceland have shown us how to stop this Argentina team from scoring, with a defensive masterclass performance. Right from the first minute, the side from Europe has held the South American giants by their neck.

Argentina and Lionel Messi came into this game knowing that Iceland would be the easiest of opponents in the group, with Croatia and Nigeria being the others team in the group. With Nigeria’s past record against Argentina and Croatia’s midfield, it remains far from done that Argentina is going to get hold of the victory.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for the South Americans with a brutal left-footed strike that stung the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes of the Group opener. However, it took only four minutes for Iceland to level things up with Alfreo Finnbogason striking from close range.

A solid first-half performance gave Iceland the confidence:

Half-time couldn’t have come at a better time for both the sides, with both teams exhausted after the monumental first half. While Messi looked on to match his rival Cristiano Ronaldo on the goal scoring chart in the second half of the game.

However, it was not all happy for Lionel Messi in the second half of the game with extensive defensive sabotage from Iceland preventing a potential Argentine attack. While Argentina started growing more frustrated, Iceland remained ice solid at the back with clearances left, right and centre.

The first opportunity that popped up in the second half for the South Americans was when Messi launched a ball that found the goal-scorer Aguero. Aguero, took a touch before he went tumbling down under the challenge of an Iceland defender. It was Messi, who was taking the penalty with Iceland defender crossing his fingers that the ball would not go into the net.

Messi’s penalty woe continues:

Just like numerous times in the recent past, Messi stepped up to take the all crucial penalty for Argentina and slotted it left before a strong save from Halldorsson saw the ball go back into the play on the wide post. However, Argentina and Messi could not capitalize on the penalty yet again in his career.

Messi’s woe with penalties continued as Argentina struggled and were held against a determined Iceland side, who looked the most comfortable on the night in the Group D encounter. With a draw, Argentina could only hope that the game between Nigeria and Croatia go stalemate if the South Americans find themselves a chance of qualifying.

The soon to be 31-year-old Messi, who is at his fourth World Cup, has to possibly play well in his last chance for global glory to go with his spectacular achievements at club level with Barcelona. With Aguero, the other player performing well for Argentina, the odds and the screws are turned over for the South American side.

FIFA World Cup: Argentina vs Iceland, Match Prediction

Argentina vs Iceland

Match Prediction: Argentina vs Iceland

Two sides with contrasting tales will take on each other in the opening game of Group D, which also features Croatia and Nigeria amongst the duo. For Argentina, the World Cup means more than ever with their skipper Lionel Messi all set to play in the World Cup for the last time.

For Iceland, the World Cup remains as the biggest stage that they have played ever in their footballing history. After having defeated England in Euros, the European side would be looking to upset a team or two in Group D.

At the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Argentina would be looking to make the early impact on the game against Iceland. Iceland, have had the history of spoiling the party for the giants. A devastated Messi stands in front of the Europeans, who would be looking to mark the Argentine magician tightly to reduce his impact on the game.

Iceland, the smallest nation to compete in World Cup:

Iceland will become the smallest nation to compete in a World Cup finals when they meet Argentina in Moscow. Argentina would be looking to finish the group as toppers, which would be beneficial for the South American side as we proceed towards the latter half of the tournament.

Arguably, it has been a one-man team performance from the South American team during the World Cup qualifiers. If not for Messi’s seven goals for La Albiceleste in the qualifiers, Argentina would not have qualified for the biggest event in Football.

Without the services of the left-footed Messi, Argentina came stumbling down against Spain in a 6-1 defeat for the La Albiceleste. However, since then Messi has only played against Haiti in a 4-0 victory for the hosts in an enthralling performance.

On the other hand, Iceland have just won one out of their last five games in the International arena which was a 4-1 win against Indonesia. Since then, Iceland have just had one draw against Ghana and the lost the other three games.

Team News:

Argentina’s head coach Jorge Sampaoli has all but confirmed the playing XI for tomorrow’s game against Iceland, with Sergio Aguero getting the nod ahead of the Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain.

Aguero’s heroics off the bench might have forced the Chilean to go with the Manchester City star, ahead of the Juventus striker. Elsewhere it is likely that there would be a centre-back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Marcos Rojo at the centre of defence.

For Iceland, Glyfi Sigurdsson would be a key player in the playing XI, with Heimir Hallgrimsson looking to nick two points away from the 2014 World Cup finalists.

Predictions:

With an attacking line-up that Argentina boasts in the playing XI, it would be hard for the Europeans to stop them from attacking. If the Europeans manage to hold the South Americans to a draw, it would mean more than two points for Iceland.

However, comparing the recent forms and the playing XI, it is most likely that Argentina would walk away with a victory, albeit not an easy win. A scoreline of 2-0 is predicted for Argentina in their opening fixture against Iceland.

 

Where to watch?

TV Channels (India) – Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony ESPN – 15th June, 6:30 P.M IST

In addition, you can live stream all the Matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup from 14th June to 15th July only on the Official SonyLIV App and the SonyLIV Website.

FIFA World Cup 2018: Team Profiles – Argentina Football Team

Lionel Messi Argentina Football Team Captain

Argentina Football Team (FC) took the hard way to qualify for the World cup finals. They needed to win the final group game against Ecuador to be sure of a place, and things didn’t start well when they went down by a goal in the first few minutes of the game. It yet again took the magic of their captain Lionel Messi who scored a hattrick, to take them to Russia. In a campaign to forget, they had three managers and lost embarrassingly to Paraguay, Ecuador, and Brazil at home and managed to muster only seven wins from their 18 games played.

Another horrible statistic showed that only Bolivia had fewer goals than Argentina Foot, a country that is blessed with attacking talent with the likes of Aguero and Higuaín and arguably the greatest player in the world in the form of their captain, Lionel Messi. And the Barcelona forward will yet again shoulder the burden of an expecting nation in Russia.

Player to Watch Out: 

Lionel Messi

For many, He is the greatest Football player to ever play the game and a world cup winner’s medal will only strengthen their case. After another great season with Barcelona, the great man will be desperate to fill his international trophy cabinet, but the question is can he do it all by himself? If he does, it would surely be his greatest ever achievement and might even propel him to the top of the list of the greatest players in the world. 

FIFA world ranking: 5

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Captain: Lionel Messi

Nickname: La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue)

World Cup history: Qualified 17 times (1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978*, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018)
*Qualified as hosts

Best World Cup result: Winners (1978, 1986)

TAB odds: 9-1

Prediction:

Argentina Football Team should make the quarterfinals easily but their dependence on Messi to get them out of every troubling situation makes it seem like they won’t go any further in the tournament. But the fact of the matter is, nothing is impossible when you have a man called Lionel Messi leading your team out onto the pitch. 

FIFA World Cup 2018: Team Profiles – Croatia

Ivan Rakitic Croatia

For the second time in a row, Croatia needed to win a playoff to secure their qualification to the World Cup Finals. They finished second behind Iceland in their group and that too after a nervy 2-0 win over their closest rivals, Ukraine. They comfortably overcame Greece in the playoff’s with a resounding 4-1 victory at home and a goalless draw away. Their qualifying campaign was much more tiring and long than it should have been, especially keeping in mind the stars they have, Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic and even Dejan Lovren in some sense. 

Midway through their qualifying campaign, after damaging defeats against Iceland and Turkey, then coach Cacic lost his job to Dalic who came in at the eleventh minute and pulled them through. The major problem for the Croat’s was the lack of goals upfront and the delivery of the end product up to the pitch. They managed to score only 15 goals from their 10 games and they know they need to better that record to go further than the group stages at the world cup.

Player to watch: Ivan Rakitic

The Barcelona midfielder has improved a lot the last year and has played a key role in the clubs recent success. His ability to orchestrate the play from midfield alongside Real Madrid Midfield maestro Modric, it would be really important for Croatia for these two to turn up and light up the World cup.

 

FIFA world ranking: 18

Coach: Zlatko Dalic

Captain: Luka Modric

Nickname: Vatreni (The Blazers)

World Cup history: Qualified five times (1998, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2018)

Best World Cup result: Third (1998)

TAB odds: 31-1

Prediction: 

Paired alongside Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland it wouldn’t be a stroll in the park to qualify, but they have all it takes as a team and as a unit to make it through to at least the round of 16. 

FIFA World Cup 2018: Team Profiles – Iceland

Gylfi Sigurdsson Iceland

The small Nordic nation picked up from where they left off after an impressive Euro 2016, where they beat footballing heavyweights England. After being drawn in a tough qualifying group consisting of Croatia, Ukraine Turkey Finland, and Kosovo, they finished top of the group and ensured direct qualification to their first ever World Cup. Their coach, a part-time dentist, Heimir Hallgrimsson fashioned a well-drilled side in qualification and they proved extremely hard to beat, winning 7, drawing just one and losing two of their matches. They were a force to be reckoned with at home, winning all five of their home games and pulled off stellar performances on the road too, beating Turkey 3 goals to Nil. This being the biggest achievement of the Tiny nation, they seem well prepared to beat the odds like they have proven to do in the past, come Russia 2018. 

One to watch out for: Gylfi Sigurdsson- 

Sigurdsson has been their main Talisman for the past few years. The Everton man has topped the scoring charts for the Icelanders and also pulled the strings from midfield. Being the player they always look to for some inspiration, the coach will hope that his charismatic number 10 will be fit and firing from all cylinders. 

FIFA world ranking: 22

Coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson

Captain: Aron Gunnarsson

Nickname: Strakarnir Okkar (Our Boys)

World Cup history: Qualified once (2018)

Best World Cup result: N/A

TAB odds: 201-1

Prediction: 

Being placed in a pool with Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia it seems highly unlikely that the will progress further in the competition. They will need to pull off an extraordinary effort, needing to get a positive result in their match against Nigeria and Croatia and do their best to get something out of the Argentina game to move further in the competition. At this point in time it looks highly unlikely that they will progress, but they have a knack of pulling of surprises in big tournaments and would hope to do so in the biggest of them all.