Group D features Argentina, runners-up from Brazil 2014 and always considered to be one of the tournament’s dark horses. Facing them will familiar foes in Nigeria whom they play for the fifth time in World Cup finals, and two European nations who faced each other in qualifying: Croatia, and playing in their first World Cup finals, Iceland.

Soccer World Cup Group D Predictions

PROFILE: ARGENTINA

Argentina world cup

FIFA Ranking 5th World Cup Base Location Moscow
How they qualified Finished 3rd in CONMEBOL group behind Brazil and Uruguay
Form in 2017/18 P7, W2, D3, L2 (includes 4 World Cup qualifiers: W1, D3)

 

World Cup Record: 16 Tournaments 2 World Cup titles (1978, 1986)
Played: 77 Draws: 14 Scored: 131 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 42 Losses: 21 Conceded: 84 4 out of 5

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
1934, 1958, 1962, 2002 1974, 1982, 1994, 1966, 1998, 2006, 2010 1930, 1978, 1986, 1990,

2014

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Croatia Played 1, Won 1 Last match: won 1 – 0, Group stage 1998
Iceland Never played before
Nigeria Played 4, Won 4 Last match: won 3 – 2, Group stage 2014

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 11.00 Group D Winner 0.60
To Reach Final Yes (4.00), No (0.15) Elimination Stage Quarter-Final (3.25)
Top Goalscorer Messi (0.65), Higuain (5.00), Aguero (5.00)

 

The question dogging Argentina is whether Lionel Messi can inspire them to greater heights than in 2014. Results during the qualifying campaign and subsequent friendlies suggest that won’t be possible.

Only twice in the history of the FIFA World Cup has the runner-up in the previous tournament gone on to win the next final: 1990 when Germany turned the tables on Argentina after the latter’s 1986 triumph, and in 2002 when Brazil were crowned champions.

Runners-up in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, Argentina’s record of reaching five finals is one of the best in the competition’s history. But their remaining record is patchy; four times they exited tournaments in the group stage, three more in the Round of Sixteen.

Messi World CupWith Lionel Messi in the side, feeding Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain more is expected of the Albiceleste. Since the last World Cup, delivering has been the issue. If the trio, along with Angel Di Maria, can find their form quickly, then qualification from the group ought not to be an issue.

However, Croatia and Nigeria are dangerous opponents with the latter beating Argentina 4 – 2 in a friendly last year in Switzerland. One slip in the ‘routine’ matches could see their Moscow base become a hindrance rather than logically optimistic.

One match in each of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod makes good sense from the Bronnitsy Training Centre. The knockout stages send them back to Nizhny Novgorod, then to Sochi in the south before two matches in the capital again.

Good planning. Unless they finish second when France await in Kazan.

Messi is the focal point of the squad, Argentina features two of the European games most coveted strikers. Surprisingly, Internazionale’s Mauro Icardi isn’t making the trip to Russia despite 29 goals in 34 games and finishing the season as capocanniere in Sere A during 2017/18.

While it’s a feast of strikers at one end of the pitch, there is a famine of goalkeepers. Sergio Romero and Willy Caballero are reserves for their clubs, leaving the uncapped but experienced Franco Armani as the third choice. Romero may reach 100 caps – he currently has 94 – but it won’t be at this tournament.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 1st in Group D, to a quarter-final meeting with Spain.

Argentina finished third in the CONMEBOL qualifying campaign, only confirming their place in Russia with a 3 – 1 win in Ecuador on the final matchday. Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick after the Albiceleste fell behind to a first-minute penalty.

It was a troubled campaign which saw surprise home defeats to Paraguay and Ecuador cause them trouble.

Despite this, they remain favourites in Group D, but warnings were received in the recent friendlies which saw them concede 10 to Nigeria and Spain. There is nothing to suggest they won’t reach the last eight but beyond that depends on how well Messi plays.

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PROFILE: CROATIA

Croatia

FIFA Ranking 18th World Cup Base Location Leningrad
How they qualified Beat Greece 4 – 1 in the playoff round after finishing second to Iceland in Group I
Form in 2017/18 P8, W4, D2, L2 (includes 6 World Cup qualifiers: W3, D2)

 

World Cup Record: 4 Tournaments
Played: 16 Draws: 2 Scored: 21 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 7 Losses: 7 Conceded: 17 0 out of 0

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
2002, 2006, 2014 1998

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Argentina Played 1, Lost 1 Last match: lost 1 – 0, Group stage 1998
Iceland Never played before
Nigeria Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 35.00 Group D Winner 2.15
To Reach Final Yes (13.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Group Stage (1.50)
Top Goalscorer Mandzukic (2.00), Kalinic (3.00), Perisic (4.00)

 

This is the last finals for some of Croatia’s squad and time for them to live up to their billing as the country’s Golden Generation. The Croatians sublime attacking play can easily switch to distinctly average in a blink of an eye. Which for a team that has a midfield that stands comparison with any squad in the finals, is almost criminal.

In their first finals after independence, Croatia’s hugely gifted squad reached third place in France in 1998. The vibrancy of their play set a high benchmark which subsequent World Cups have failed to meet.

The guile and artistry of Modric and Rakitic, allied with Perisic’s pace, should be enough to cause all defences problems. Mario Mandzukic, a wily old campaigner, knows how to add to them. The question is whether he will score enough goals for them.

It’s an issue because his understudies aren’t prolific and despite having some well-known names among their defence, they can be very uninspiring at the back. The absence of Vedran Corluka affected the back four with the loss of his calming influence.

Despite the presence of Srna, Vida, and Vrsaliko, all accomplished players at club level, there is a bewildering uncertainty at the back. Fortunately, their qualifying group was relatively weak in an attacking sense and they conceded just four goals overall.

Since qualifying, a 2 – 0 defeat against Peru and 1 – 0 win over Mexico do little to suggest they face an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout phase.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 3rd in Group D.

Croatia trailed Iceland by two points in Group 1, finishing three ahead of Ukraine. Taking a point from Turkey in the two games proved costly, as did the home draw with Finland. Iceland, by contrast, won all five home games, which put Croatia on the backfoot.

However, Vatreni made light work of Greece in the playoff winning the first leg 4 – 1, effectively ending the tie. A goalless draw in Piraeus was enough to send Croatia into the finals.

PROFILE: ICELAND

iceland

FIFA Ranking 22nd World Cup Base Location Krasnodar
How they qualified Won Group I ahead of Croatia
Form in 2017/18 P7, W3, D1, L3 (includes 4 World Cup qualifiers: W3, L1)

 

World Cup Record:
Never qualified for World Cup finals before

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
Never qualified for World Cup finals before

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Argentina Never played before
Croatia Never played before
Nigeria Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 350.0 Group D Winner 12.25
To Reach Final Yes (42.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Group Stage (0.25)
Top Goalscorer Sigurdsson (3.00), Finnbogason (3.25), Bodvarsson (7.00)

 

Having reached their first European Championships finals in 2016, Iceland deservedly reached their first-ever World Cup finals this year. The element of surprise which many assumed was a reason for their success lifted to reveal a good hard-working side.

Not as technically gifted as some, Iceland have a plan and players who not only understand it but also bought into it. However, are the limitations of their style about to be exposed on a global stage?

Does it really matter? Iceland are the feelgood factor of these finals. Along with Nigeria, whose effervescent style of play can be a joy to watch, the Nordic nation is thumbing its’ nose as the elite. The bond between players and supporters with their trademark ‘thunderclap’ will be one of the stories of the summer.

Aron Gunnarsson is a pivotal player for Iceland. His tough-tackling, no-nonsense approach fulfils a simple role: he wins the ball, passes to the creative element – Sigurdsson of Everton, Gudmundsson of Burnley – in the XI. Recycling possession quickly is a key to their approach.

The 4-2-3-1 formation will not be dropped, with Bodvarsson leading the line in place of Sigthorsson after the latter’s problems with knee injuries.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 4th in Group D.

Their impeccable home record in qualifying was only punctured by Finland in a 3 – 2 win; all other opponents in the group were beaten to nil. The win over Croatia, in the end, proved a critical difference between the two nations.

Away from home and a guide for Russia 2018, Iceland only won in Turkey and Kosovo, along with a draw in Ukraine. However, defeats in Finland and Croatia suggest that meeting passionate opponents or raising technical levels may cause Our Boys problems.

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PROFILE: NIGERIA

Nigeria World Cup

FIFA Ranking 47th World Cup Base Location Istochnik
How they qualified Winners of CAF Group B
Form in 2017/18 P13, W8, D2, L3 (includes 3 World Cup qualifiers: W1, D1)

 

World Cup Record: 5 Tournaments
Played: 18 Draws: 3 Scored: 20 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 5 Losses: 10 Conceded: 26 0 out of 0

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
2002, 2010 1994, 1998, 2014

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Argentina Played 4, Lost 4 Last match: lost 2 – 3, Group stage 2014
Croatia Never played before
Iceland Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 250.00 Group D Winner 10.25
To Reach Final Yes (24.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Round of 16 (3.35)
Top Goalscorer Simon (4.00), Iwobi (4.00), Iheanacho (4.00)

 

As well as carrying the hopes of a nation, many observers believe Nigeria could carry the hopes of an African continent with them in Russia. The Super Eagles have never progressed beyond the last sixteen but breaking that duck is a distinct possibility.

Optimism is fuelled on two counts. Firstly, the made under German coach Gernot Rohr. His organisational skills and calmness was much welcomed by the squad after an electrifying two-year spell where they witnessed the coming and going of five coaches.

The second was the brashness of their qualifying campaign. The first African nation to qualify, they ended the hopes of reaching Russia for Cameroon, the reigning African Cup of Nations champions.

Add in a stunning 4 – 2 friendly win over Argentina and all the ingredients are in place for a Nigeria success story this summer.

Perhaps Rohr’s biggest challenge is keeping the squad united. Last time around, they were in dispute with the Nigerian FA over payments, which was a significant factor in losing to France at the last World Cup.

While Rohr has an undoubtedly fine array of talent – Iwobi, Iheanacho, Musa, Moses and Ighalo all play a variety of roles in the side – he has questions in defence to resolve.

Ezenwa, a Nigerian-based player, is under threat in goal with Deportivo La Coruna’s Uzoho coming into the frame. The latter, still a teenager, is being eyed by a host of clubs as one of the stars of the future.

While the central defence is stable with Balogun and Troost-Ekong forming a reliable partnership, neither full-back spot has a certainty in selection, leading to some vulnerability down the flanks.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 2nd in Group D.

After disposing of Swaziland comfortably 2 – 0 on aggregate, Nigeria underlined their quality by finishing their third round group unbeaten. The record books show they lost one game but their 1 – 1 draw in Algeria turned into a 3 – 0 defeat with the Super Eagles fielding the ineligible Shehu Abdullahi.

Taking four points from six from African Cup of Nations holders Cameroon left Nigeria in control of their group. The Indomitable Lions were no longer a pack with any pride after a 4 – 0 thrashing in Uyo was followed by a 1 – 1 draw in Yaoundé.

Wrapping up the remaining two games was a formality and left the Super Eagles as one of the favourites to be the best performing African nation in Russia.

Soccer World Cup Group Previews and Predictions

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

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 *Please note – odds mentioned above are correct at time of publishing but are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

**Certain tournaments had slightly different formats in the past, so the placing most aligned to the current tournament format has been chosen.

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