As Russia prepares to open the festivities for this year’s World Cup, we’re going to preview each group and discuss the exciting match ups to come. Today we look at Group D.
Group D: Iceland, Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria
Following an amazing, although improbable run at The European Championship in 2016, Iceland finished at the top of their qualifying group. After staking their claim as the smallest nation to qualify for the European Championship, Iceland is now the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup Finals with a total population of only 337,780. Stemming from their success at the Euros where they met France in the quarter-finals, Iceland look to make a statement in a fairly competitive group. Gylfi Sigurdsson, their highest profile player — and leading goal scorer in their qualifying campaign — will need to best player and lead the squad in creativity and creation. After their strong display in the Euros, Iceland is now seen as a dark horse, and the other nations will be wary of their ability to pull off an unexpected victory.
Argentina should win Group D, but what of Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria? I've written about their chances for @gambling_com https://t.co/K2tF5mD3nU
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) June 4, 2018
Arguably the best player in the world, Superstar Lionel Messi leads the list on a strong Argentian team. Surprisingly, Argentina struggled in qualifying, barely making the cut to appear in The World Cup finals. After a 2-0 loss to Ecuador while without Messi, Argentina struggled through a draw with Paraguay but finally found their form against matches with Brazil and Colombia. During a 1-0 victory in Chile, Messi was accused of abuse of a linesman and was issued a four-match ban. After FIFA reduced the ban, Messi returned to lead the Argentinians to victory with a hat-trick against Ecuador. Supported by Angel Di Maria and Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi, the Argentinians will need strong and consistent play to emerge from the group. The final tune-up against Israel was cancelled due to threats of violence, but the squad looks ready for their opening match against Iceland.
Needing a playoff to qualify for their second consecutive tournament, Croatia had a rocky road to make their appearance in Russia. Facing Greece to book their ticket was simple in the end, with a dominating 4-1 victory in the first leg of a 2 match playoff. Losses to Peru and Brazil in pre-tournament matches raised some concern, but a victory against Senegal in their final friendly restored some faith in this roster and their leadership. After facing some national unrest, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric looks to regain favour with his countrymen, as he looks to have a strong performance in the tournament. A strong group stage at Euro 2016 gives some analysts reason to believe that Croatia can emerge from the group stages if they can provide consistent play.
Nigeria had a challenging qualifying campaign against some of the best teams in Africa, and technically finished their qualifying round undefeated. The only blemish on their record is an automatic 3-0 victory awarded to Algeria after the game resulted in a 1-1 draw. Algeria was awarded a 3–0 win as a result of Nigeria fielding the ineligible player Shehu Abdullahi, who failed to serve a one-game ban after receiving two yellow cards during qualification. Chelsea’s Victor Moses will be required to lead the offense, while John Obi Mikel will need to support both ends of the field to push Nigeria into contention. Nigeria were able to beat a Messi-less Argentina to prove that they were here to make a mark, and hopefully become the first African nation to make the semi-finals in a World Cup Tournament.
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