We’re just nine days away from the 2018 World Cup and it’s time for us to analyse each group in the tournament. Today, we’re looking at Group D, a blockbuster group headlined by Argentina and Croatia with Iceland and Nigeria looking to spring upsets.
Here’s our analysis of Group D.
Of course, any team with Lionel Messi in their ranks will be classed as favourites. Many are looking at this to be the year where this Argentina team finally reaches their full potential. However, it could be a story of same old same old as their route to qualification was far from convincing.
Messi’s team finished third in the CONMEBOL standings, only securing qualification on the final gameday with a 3-1 win over Ecuador. Despite having the likes of Sergio Agüero & Gonzalo Higuaín in the team, Messi finished as Argentina’s top scorer in the qualifying stage with seven goals in ten games.
Argentina and Messi will face starch competition from one of Europe’s finest teams, Croatia. However, the Croatians themselves didn’t have it smooth sailing in the qualifying stage. They themselves had to scrape to Russia via a 4-1 playoff win over Greece. Coincidently, Croatia finished second to their Group D compatriots, Iceland, in the qualifying process.
The surprise package of Euro 2016 is coming back with force in Russia. After knocking out England in the Euros, Iceland went on to top their World Cup qualification group with an impressive seven wins in ten games. The Nordic side is still displaying the same level of ruthless aggression, unparalleled organisation and unrivalled resiliency. In Russia, Iceland will ruffle feathers just like they did in France.
Last but not least, the lowest ranked African team in the tournament will look to bring their free-flowing football to Group D. This will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance in the World Cup finals. Despite their FIFA ranking, the Super Eagles were the first African side to book their place in Russia, storming their group with four wins out of six. Led by the youthful exuberance of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho and founded by the cultured experience of John Obi Mikel, Nigeria are the wildcard to be feared in this group.
So, how will Group D play out?
If playing to their full potential, Lionel Messi and Argentina should top Group D in comfortable fashion. The firepower of Messi, Agüero, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and wonderkid Cristian Pavón will surely see Jorge Sampaoli’s side to 1st place.
Who will join them in the coveted second spot is the harder question. Based on reputation alone, Croatia should finish second but we here at Sports Courant have a sneaky feeling that Iceland will upstage their European counterparts once again.
In fact, we’re prepared to go as far and say Croatia will finish bottom of the group, behind fearless Nigeria. Yes, a midfield trio of Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić & Ivan Rakitić is magical but the rest of the team is simply not good enough to give them the foundation to flourish.
Group D Prediction: