World Cup 2018: Group D Preview
The World Cup is always an incredible spectacle as it gathers all the best players in the world for a football festival that lasts one amazing month.
If you are a true football fan, Group D will be one of the most entertaining to watch as it contains debatably the greatest football player of all time.
Lionel Messi and Argentina kick off their World Cup adventure on the 16th June when they face Euro 2016’s great entertainers, Iceland.
Can Leo Messi finally win an international trophy?
Argentina have had a rough time in international competitions in recent years, losing the World Cup final to Germany in 2014 and losing consecutive Copa America finals to Chile in 2015 and 2016.
The only thing missing in Lionel Messi’s record book is an international trophy and Russia 2018 could be the perfect opportunity for Messi and Argentina to become World Champions.
As mentioned, Argentina are joined by Iceland in Group D, a country who shocked the world in 2016 by knocking England out of the European Championships despite having a population of just 300,000.
Iceland are an entertaining side to watch and have fans as good as any.
Strangely, Iceland may no longer be seen as the underdogs due to their heroics in France two years ago and the fact that they won their qualification group, ahead of fellow group members, Croatia.
Croatia: A formidable force
Croatia will be competing in their 5th World Cup, with their best showing coming at France 98 where they finished 3rd.
A midfield containing Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic makes Croatia a formidable force at the tournament and they will, without a doubt, be a thoroughly entertaining side to watch this summer.
And last but not least, Nigeria.
The Super Eagles have never made it past the round of 16 at the World Cup but have won the African Cup of Nations on 3 occasions, most recently in 2013.
Nigeria are well represented in the Premier League with Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, the man who scored the goal that sent Nigeria to the World Cup.
The 2014 World Cup runners up will be hoping to improve on their performance in Brazil 4 years ago.
Argentina have some incredible players in their ranks alongside Lionel Messi; including Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria.
Argentina don’t exactly have the toughest defence and almost missed out on qualification to the tournament.
Had the Argentinians drawn their match with Chile on March 23rd, they would have missed out on qualification to the tournament and Alexis Sanchez’s Chile would have qualified instead.
Not bad revenge for the two Copa America finals.
Argentina’s biggest problem is relying on Messi.
They are most certainly not a one-man team but Messi scored at least 5 more goals than any other Argentinian in qualification and will of course, be marked heavily in every game that Argentina play.
Manchester United’s Sergio Romero is Argentina’s first choice goalkeeper and is protected by former Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano and Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi.
Argentina’s key men
Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) & Angel Di Maria (PSG)
Lionel Messi has won 5 Balon d’Or’s and is perhaps the greatest footballer to have ever lived.
Need we say anything else?
Sergio Aguero will be looking to add to his 36 goals for his country after most probably ending the season as a Premier League champion with Manchester City.
Angel Di Maria has been directly involved in numerous goals for PSG this season despite being in the shadow of Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe.
The former Manchester United man is just 8 caps short of a century and could win his 100th cap for Argentina in the World Cup final should Argentina make it there.
The Icelandic thunder clap is sure to be heard around Russia this summer as Iceland return to the World Stage.
Incredibly, this is only Iceland’s second ever appearance at an international tournament, their first at the World Cup.
Iceland may have very few household names but they will definitely be ready to cause an upset.
Nine different players scored for Iceland during qualification which shows that they can produce goals from all over the pitch.
Fans of Premier League clubs will know that should Iceland get a free kick, Gylfi Sigurdsson is more than capable of scoring, no matter where from.
Iceland’s key men
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Alfred Finnbogason (FC Augsburg) & Kolbeinn Sigborsson (Nantes)
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been playing in the Premier League since 2012 for clubs such as Swansea, Tottenham and Everton.
The attacking midfielder signed for Everton last summer in a deal worth over £40 million and is Iceland’s most expensive player of all time.
Finbogason scored 3 goals in Iceland’s road to Russia, one less than Sigurdsson.
The 28 year old striker has played in La Liga and the Bundesliga, where this season, he has double figures for goals to his name.
He also scored in Olympiacos’ 3-2 win at the Emirates over Arsenal during the 2015/16 Champions League.
Sigborsson is the man who knocked England out of Euro 2016 and is his country’s top scorer despite playing just 44 games.
The 27 year old averages a goal every other game for his country and will be Iceland’s biggest goal threat in Russia.
Since finishing third in their first ever World Cup in 1998, Croatia have failed to ever make it past the group stage.
They have made it to the quarter finals of the European Championships twice but have never won an international tournament.
Croatia’s midfield is one of the best in international football containing Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic along with Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic.
In defence, Liverpool’s dodgy centre back Dejan Lovren is a regular starter for the Croatian national team often alongside Atletico Madrid’s Sime Vrsalijko.
Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic is almost certain to lead the line for Croatia in Russia as he did at Euro 2016
Croatia’s key men
Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Luka Modric (Real Madrid) & Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
Mandzukic is Croatia’s second greatest ever goal scorer with 30 goals, behind ex Arsenal and Real Madrid striker Davor Suker who scored 45 goals for his country between 1992 and 2002.
Luka Modric was named in FIFA’s best XI of 2017 as well as the EA Sports’ Team of the year.
The former Tottenham schemer is undisputedly one of the best midfield players around and will play with club team-mate Mateo Kovacic and La Liga rival Ivan Rakitic.
Rakitic hasn’t been quite as successful as Modric but still has a Champions League, 2 La Liga titles and 3 Copa Del Rey’s to his name.
The Barcelona man hasn’t been in such great form this season but will still play a pivotal role for Croatia in Russia.
Nigeria qualified for the World Cup after Alex Iwobi scored a vital winner against Zambia back in October.
The Super Eagles played Argentina in a friendly match in November which they won 4-2, with Iwobi scoring twice.
They will of course, be hoping for a similar result when the two sides meet again in St Petersburg on the 26th of June.
Nigeria have never made it past the last 16 at the World Cup and were knocked out four years ago in Brazil by France.
This will be Nigeria’s 6th World Cup and they will be desperate to please the millions of African fans supporting them from around the world.
Nigeria’s key men
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) & Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow)
Iwobi may come under serious criticism when he is playing for Arsenal, but for Nigeria, he seems to be a totally different player.
The 21 year old has scored some big goals for his country and will be desperate to silence his critics this summer.
Iheanacho seemed to score every time he played for Manchester City but was sold to Leicester in the summer for around £25 million.
Iheanacho will also have a point to prove after not playing much for Leicester this season.
Another former Leicester player, Ahmed Musa, plays an important role for Nigeria.
The 25 year old has scored 13 goals for his country and despite struggling at Leicester and moving to CSKA Moscow, he will almost certainly be on the plane to Russia in June. (Or simply waiting for his team mates arriving by plane…)
the Group D results!
Argentina 2-0 Iceland
Croatia 1-0 Nigeria
Argentina 2-1 Croatia
Nigeria 1-2 Iceland
Nigeria 0-2 Argentina
Iceland 1-1 Croatia
The verdict on World Cup Group D
Argentina are almost guaranteed to top the group even though they had a tough ride reaching the tournament itself.
It will be a tight battle for second between Argentina and Croatia but we believe that Iceland will beat Croatia to second spot, solely on goals scored.
Nigeria are by no means, a poor side, and it is fair to label Group D as “The Group of Death”