Time to look at Group D from the 2018 FIFA World Cup! Daily reminder of what the groups look like.
Here we go!
Draw: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
A very interesting group in Group D. This group has that genuine feel that anyone can finish in any spot and it would come to little surprise of most people. There’s a lot of talent in this group, and it should make for some very exciting fixtures.
The least surprising of the picks, Argentina, like Portugal, have a player that can control a game all on his own. Leo Messi (Barcelona, Spain) has the ability to make defenders look like traffic cones at any given moment. But, unlike Portugal, he has players around him to help if he gets shut down. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus, Italy) and Paulo Dybala (Juventus, Italy) are both dangerous attacking threats and proven goal scorers. Dybala has registered 12 goals and 3 assists in 16 appearances for Juve, while Higuain has 9 and 3 in 15 appearances. Going forward they will be dangerous.
In the midfield, players like Di Maria (PSG, France) Lucas Biglia (Milan, Italy) and Ever Banega (Sevilla, Spain) will provide a solid balance of attacking ability and stout defending in transition. Defensively, the likes of Nicholas Otamendi (Manchester City, England), Marcus Rojo (Manchester United, England) and Javier Macherano (Barcelona, Spain) will help keep the ball away from the net of goalkeeper Sergio Romero (Manchester United, England). Otamendi is a solid defender and also has a scoring threat about him, while Romero is known for coming big when the time comes.
They are not perfect, though. A Messi-less Argentina dropped a friendly to Nigeria 4-2 earlier in November, who are also in this group. They also had a few scoreless draws in qualifying. If team can tough out 90 minutes of pressure, or even nick one of their own early and defend for their lives, they might be able to take a point off Argentina. However, it is most likely they find a way to finish their chances and will top the group.
The Croats are back in action after bowing out of the last competition in the group stages, and they are ready to compete. They have a very well-rounded roster that can compete with any team. From the back, Subasic (Monaco, France) in goal gives an experienced, steady, trustworthy goalkeeper to build off. In the back, Dimagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine) is a CB who has played in both the Champions League and Europe League. He has 5 clean sheets in all competitions and has also scored twice with Kiev in the Ukrainian League. He is paired with Dejan Lovern (Liverpool, England) who will look to silence his critics with a solid performance in this tournament.
In the midfield, the real danger begins to appear. Luka Modric (Real Madrid, Spain) and Ivan Rakatic (Barcelona, Spain)
will pull the strings in the center of the park. Marcelo Brozovic (Inter, Italy) will aid in the possession, but will be more of a number 8 for Croatia. The three of them have combined for 8 assists and 4 goals in WCQs. They will need to have a solid tournament if they are to advance. On the wings, Ivan Perisic will create loads of opportunities for the strikers to finish with his creative attacking mindset.
Up top, it will focus around Mario Mandzukic (Juventus, Italy), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim, Germany), and Nikola Kalinic (Milan, Itlay). These three have combined for 11 goals in WCQs this year, and are usually all featured in each game. They should have no problem finishing against some of the back lines in this group.
Croatia are not perfect, however. They have dropped two WCQs, one of which was to Iceland, who is in this group. However, they had a good showing at the Euros in 2016, knocking off Turkey and Spain before narrowly being edged out by champions Portugal after a 117’ finish from Quaresma. They have the attacking talent and defensive capabilities to do well in this tournament. A second-place finish in the group is not unreasonable for Croatia.
BOOM BOOM CLAP! Iceland’s magical Euro 2016 run has gained them international notoriety and has put Iceland on the world football map. However, the Cinderella story is over. They have a strong defense, led by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson (Randers, Denmark) and Ragnar Sigurdsson (Rubin Kazan, Russia). Iceland have only given up 2 goals in WCQs in 2017. The midfield is led by an underperforming Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton, England) and an average Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley, England). Alfred Finnbogason (Augsburg, Germany) leads the front line.
Scoring mostly comes from the foot of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Finnbogason (4 and 3 goals respectively in WCQs) and the assists also come from Gylfi’s boot (3 assists). However, at Everton, Gylfi has been struggling to make an impact. He has 2 goals and 2 assists for Everton, who have started drastically. Everton signed Sigurdsson strictly based on his ability to set others up like he did at Swansea. He has started off very slowly, and is not seeming as if he is ready to jump into form any time soon. If he doesn’t pick up his form soon or is shut down by opposing midfields, Iceland will have a difficult time creating and finishing chances. He will be able to do enough to get them into third place, but Iceland will not get out of the group.
Nigeria is the lowest ranked team in the group at 50, but they have the potential to really upset some of the teams here. They have one thing that will torture defenders in this group, especially in the later games. They. Have. PACE. This team is fast. They can take on players, put a skill on them and go even faster after that. If they can find a way to keep the ball out of the net, they can grab some big points here. They moved on from their group last year containing Argentina, Iran and Bosnia. They nearly grabbed a point from Argentina, drew Iran and beat Bosnia. It would not be surprising if they did a similar thing again this year.
The Super Eagles score a lot of goals and give up a lot as well. Their biggest concern will be keeping the other teams off the board. They no longer have captain Vincent Enyema (Lille, France) after he retired from international football. All their goalkeepers now play in the Nigerian League, so they have not been exposed to talent levels like they will see in the World Cup. They have a few decent options in the back, like Troost-Ekong (Bursaspor, Turkey) and Victor Moses (Chelsea, England). The key to their defensive strength, however, will come from the likes of Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester, England) and Jon Obi Mikel (Tianjin Teda, China).
The CDM pair will have their hand full with the likes of Dybala, Modric, and Sigurdsson. However, if they can cause a few interceptions in the middle of the park, they can hit any team on the counter. Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England), Kelechi Ihenacho (Leicester, England) and Ahmed Musa (Leicester, England) can beat anyone for pace in the attacking third. However, they have not produced well as an attacking unit. The attacking trio has combined for only 4 goals in WCQs. They may be quick, but they have trouble finishing, which is why they will finish at the bottom of their group.