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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

World Cup Group D to be decided by fine margins as Iceland captain Gunnarsson ramps up pressure on Nigeria

Midfielder Gudmundsson has been ruled out with injury while manager Hallgrimsson is confident of his side's chances

Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson takes part in a training session ahead of the World Cup Group D tie against Nigeria. Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson takes part in a training session ahead of the World Cup Group D tie against Nigeria. Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson is convinced Group D in the World Cup will be decided by fine margins ahead of his side's clash with Nigeria in Volgograd on Friday.

Iceland claimed a hard-fought 1-1 draw against group favourites Argentina in their first match, and with Nigeria losing to Croatia, victory for either side on Friday could prove decisive in progressing to the knockout stages.

Gunnarsson said Iceland will build on their performance against Argentina, stressing the importance of the collective to their hopes of success against Nigeria, while ramping up the pressure on their African opponents.

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"I've always said that when everyone is rowing in the same direction then anything is possible in football," said Gunnarsson, who led Iceland to the quarter-finals of the 2016 European Championships in France.

"This is a must-win game for Nigeria, and that makes it a little bit psychologically different, they have to win," he said.

"This group is going to be decided in the last minutes, in the last game.

"It's going to be down to some margins, a set piece, a goal in injury time. This is how this group is going to be played."

Iceland will be without midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who has not recovered from the calf injury he picked up against Argentina.

Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson said the injury means he will make changes to his line-up but boldly predicted his side would beat the Super Eagles.

"We expect to win," coach Heimir Hallgrimsson told reporters at the Volgograd Arena after a brief training session, adding that the Burnley player would be replaced by Olafur Skulason if he doesn't make it.

"It is very unlikely that Joey will play. But he's getting better every day, and is in good hands."

Gudmundsson was forced off after an hour against Argentina but there was better news on Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had faced a race against time to be fit for the tournament. He played the full 90 minutes against Argentina and has recovered completely.

"He's 100 per cent fit. Match fit and ready to play," Hallgrimsson said. "We have been rotating the team in preparation so we are ready to switch it around and it doesn't change our plans how we will approach this game."