World Cup Finals Russia 2018 Previews & Betting Tips: Group A
Which countries feature in Group D?
Argentina, runner-up at Brazil 2014, are the top seed, meeting familiar foes Nigeria, with Iceland and Croatia resuming their qualification battle, in Russia 2018’s ‘Group of Death’!
What are the fixtures?
16th June 2018
Otkritie Arena, Moscow
Argentina vs Iceland
16th June 2018
Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
Croatia vs Nigeria
21st June 2018
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
Argentina vs Croatia
22nd June 2018
Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Nigeria vs Iceland
26th June 2018
Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
Nigeria vs Argentina
26th June 2018
Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
Iceland vs Croatia
How is Group D shaping up?
All eyes will be on Lionel Messi. Pele had 1958, Cruyff 1974, and Maradona 1986; Messi’s World Cup has yet to come. He dragged Argentina into the final in 2014 without ever excelling or playing to his fullest potential.
It sums up his international career. Messi has never quite lived up to the stratospheric heights of Barcelona and his relationship with fans strained by comparison to his Catalan adoration. Not that the Albiceleste are all about the impish Messi.
Jorge Sampaoli is the third coach of this World Cup campaign and despite their prodigious talent, they only just qualified, scoring 19 goals in 18 games. His conundrum is how to meld Aguero, di Maria, Dybala, and Higuain into a team which functions more than just fitfully.
Their warm-up games are disrupted with their final match in Israel unsurprisingly cancelled. Wins over Haiti and Italy can’t mask the damage wrought by Spain’s 6 – 1 demolition in March. The hours this frees up on the training ground may prove more beneficial for shoring up the defence than scoring three or four against a team ‘on the beach’.
Nigeria are their first opponents and a useful benchmark. They come into the tournament in wretched form with just one win in six (D1, L4) including a 3 – 2 defeat to Atletico Madrid. While they have the attacking verve to beat Argentina 4 – 2, their problem is in defence.
Francis Uzoho is 19, and full of youthful promise in goal but football wisdom has it that he is still a decade away from maturity. Errors such as the one at Wembley during the 2 – 1 defeat against England are not uncommon and while not everyday occurrences, still damaging enough when it costs three points with no time in remaining games to recover them.
Unless Gernot Rohr can find some solutions quickly, this talented group will not live up to their potential.
Both Croatia and Iceland must have groaned when the draw was made; not again. The pair met in qualifying with both nations winning the home matches to nil. Iceland won the group despite the Croats being favourites, building on their success at Euro 2016.
They won’t play flowing, intricate passing football; their strength is strength and stamina. This is the side which wouldn’t be out of place in mid-table English football, pushing for a European place: the Burnley of the World Cup if you like.
Croatia maintains the strong links with the former Yugoslavia you would expect. Technically gifted and capable of beating anyone on their day; those days are few and far between though.
Neither side is in good form. Croatia lost two of the last three (Brazil and Peru) while beating Mexico. All games featured one side who failed to score. They meet Senegal before the finals in a match which will hint at the outcome of their game against Nigeria. They know Iceland so well, they haven’t tailored their programme toward them at all.
Iceland won one of the last four, losing the last three. Mexico and Peru were two of those, Norway the third and all of them scored three times. Iceland’s one win came over Indonesia back in January.
Betting Tips for World Cup Group D
While Nigeria are the people’s favourites and Iceland the underdogs, it’s hard to see either finding the form to reach the last sixteen. A pity since either doing so would be the breath of fresh air that international football needs. Our betting tips for World Cup Group D are Argentina and Croatia to go further.
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