WORLD CUP PREVIEW – GROUP D
Argentina – The Argies were in real trouble of not making it to Russia. Disappointing results against Bolivia, Venezuela and a 3-0 hammering by Brazil put Messi and co in real danger until the Barcelona superstar came through with a hat trick in the final qualifying game.
Iceland – Qualifying for their first ever World Cup, Iceland finished top of their qualifying group above of fellow Group D participants Croatia. The highlight of qualifying was a 90th minute winner against Croatia in June 2017.
Croatia – Needing a play off tie to qualify, Croatia destroyed Greece 4-1 in their first leg before sealing qualification with a 0-0 draw away. Croatia will be hoping to achieve a higher finish than Iceland in the World Cup which they failed to do in qualifying.
Nigeria – The Super Eagles topped their qualifying group with 4 wins in 6 games. Their only defeat came because of Nigeria fielding an ineligible player meaning their 1-1 draw with Algeria was changed to a 3-0 loss. Chelsea wing back Victor Moses top scored with 3 goals.
Argentina – Nicolas Otamendi
Like with Portugal and Ronaldo, Lionel Messi will grab the headlines. However, with Argentina’s impressive array of forwards, they will need the defence to compliment this. Otamendi impressed for PL champions Man City and will need to perform in Russia if Argentina are to compete.
Iceland – Aron Gunnarsson
Cardiff City winger Gunnarsson impressed for Iceland in Euro 2016 and will be an important player for Iceland in this World Cup. Gunnarsson is one of Iceland’s most experienced players with over 70 caps.
Croatia – Luka Modric
Since signing for Real Madrid in 2012, Modric has emerged as one of the best centre midfielders in the world. Alongside Rakitic and Kovacic, Croatia’s strength is in midfield and they will be hoping the Madrid man will create the chances for forwards Mandzukic and Kramaric.
Nigeria – Ahmed Musa
Despite not making an impact for Leicester, Musa does have the potential to help Nigeria progress with his electric pace. Musa has been in impressive form for new club CSKA Moscow since moving there on loan from Leicester.
With possibly the strongest attack in the tournament, alongside Brazil, Argentina should be a real force in the competition. A potential quarter final with Spain awaits in what should be a great game for the neutral.
Despite finishing below Iceland in qualifying, Croatia’s impressive midfield line up should be enough to see off the Icelandic team here. Will need Mandzukic or Kramaric to contribute in front of goal though.
Alongside Wales, Iceland were the surprise package of Euro 2016. With incredible support in France, Iceland won over many fans across the rest of the world. No longer a surprise package, Iceland have become a very good side and will be looking to grab that 2nd spot.
A lot of Nigeria’s chances will depend on their opening game against Croatia. They were well beaten by England in a pre-tournament friendly where the score line really should have been more convincing than 2-1.
Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria – 9/2
Kramaric group top scorer – 16/1
Mascherano to receive most booking points for Argentina – 6/1
– Robert Shiers